PATNA, INDIA (AFP) – Eleven people have died from drinking bootleg alcohol in India’s poorest state Bihar, officials said on Thursday (April 1), with their families blaming authorities for their alleged failure to crack down on illegal liquor makers.
Bihar became a dry state in 2016, but a national health survey in 2019-20 found that more than 15 per cent of men still reported consuming alcohol.
Eight people died on Wednesday and a further three on Thursday, days after one of the biggest Hindu festivals, Holi, when alcohol consumption is usually higher.
The victims’ families told authorities that after they drank locally made liquor, they complained of stomach pain and vomiting, and died shortly after.
Five others were also being treated in hospital, officials said.
Most of the victims were landless farm labourers or small land-holding peasants in rural Bihar.
In February, at least 10 people in the state were known to have died after consuming illegal moonshine, officials said.
The victims’ families held protests in several villages, blaming authorities for the deaths and accusing them of allowing the illegal trade to flourish.
A government official dealing with excise duties said that in rural parts of the state, locally made alcohol had “become a cottage industry in view of the high profits”.
Of the estimated five billion litres of alcohol drunk every year in India, around 40 per cent is illegally produced, according to the International Spirits and Wine Association of India.
Deaths are frequently reported, with bootleggers often found adding methanol – a highly toxic form of alcohol sometimes used as an anti-freeze – in their brews to increase its strength.
In 2015, more than 100 people died in a Mumbai slum after drinking bootleg alcohol.