NEW DELHI • Indian police yesterday raided rural hamlets and made arrests to break up a bootlegging cartel, after 86 people died from consuming illegally-produced alcohol in the north-western state of Punjab, officials said.
"We have conducted raids at more than 30 places and we have detained six more persons," said Mr Dhruman Nimbale, a senior police officer in Punjab's Tarn Taran district.
Mr Nimbale said the first death occurred last Wednesday but police were alerted on Friday, and then launched an investigation to determine whether the fatalities were linked.
Punjab police have so far arrested at least 25 people and conducted more than 100 raids across three districts, seizing hundreds of litres of liquor from villages and roadside eateries, the state's police chief Dinkar Gupta said last Saturday.
A government official said some of the seized liquid was denatured spirit, which is typically used in the paint and hardware industry.
Deaths from illegally-produced alcohol, known locally as "hooch" or "country liquor", are a regular occurrence in India, where many cannot afford branded spirits.
Coronavirus-related lockdowns have made it difficult for people to enjoy a regular tipple. Last Friday, 10 men died in a southern Indian state after consuming sanitiser derived from alcohol, as local liquor shops were closed, police said.
"Some people who are heavily addicted to alcohol had been consuming hand sanitisers for the high," Kurichedu district police chief Siddharth Kaushalhe had said.
"Alcohol is not available because of the lockdown, but hand sanitisers are easily available."