Toxic alcohol kills 69 in India, hundreds hospitalised

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Another 45 people have been hospitalised and 20 are in a critical state after almost 100 people drank the liquor on Thursday, local lawmakers from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party told Reuters.

The tradition of drinking country liquor has remained a common practice among the tea garden workers despite many drives against country liquor and awareness programme about the adverse health impact of such liquor.

"We have arrested two people, but we are still investigating their role in the incident", said Partha Pratim Saikia, a senior official with the police in the Golaghat district in the northeastern state of Assam. The doctors, nurses and the staff of the two hospitals are giving their best for the medical care of the patients.

"I asked some of the patients why they consume liquor nearly everyday and they said after a hard day's work in the plantations they drink to relieve stress and tiredness", health minister Sarma said. "Initially, everything was normal, but after some time my head started hurting", one hospitalized tea worker said.

"The headache grew so much that I could not eat or sleep". His wife then took him to the tea plantation hospital, and he was referred to the district hospital.

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Of the estimated five billion litres of alcohol drunk every year in India, around 40 percent is illegally produced, according to the International Spirits and Wine Association of India. Bootleggers have been known to spike their product with methanol, a toxic substance used in antifreeze, to boost potency.

If ingested in large quantities, methanol can cause blindness, liver damage and death.

Sonowal has instituted a one man inquiry and asked Upper Assam Division Commissioner to inquire into the corollaries of events leading to the deaths.

More than 100 people were reported to have died in Uttar Pradesh and in Uttarakhand last week after consuming illegal alcohol. Awarwal said police are pursuing other people believed to be connected to the racket as part of an ongoing investigation.

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