NEW DELHI (AFP) - Seventeen labourers have died and about a dozen others are fighting for their lives in northern India after drinking toxic homemade liquor, police said Sunday (July 17), in the latest incident of alcohol poisoning in the country.
Police in Uttar Pradesh state's Etah district said the victims started to vomit and fall sick, complaining of severe stomach aches and blurred vision after consuming the illicit moonshine late Friday.
"Seventeen people have died since (Friday) night and about 12 are still in the hospital, very ill," a local police officer told AFP on the condition of anonymity.
The officer said a local vendor was arrested late Saturday after police registered a formal case against him for culpable homicide.
"The vendor obviously mixed some chemical in the last batch... police are investigating the matter," he added.
The latest incident prompted state chief minister Akhilesh Yadav to suspend five district officials, including two police officers, for neglect of duty.
He offered 200,000 rupees (US$3,000) in compensation to the families of those killed.
Hundreds of poor people die every year in India due to alcohol poisoning, mostly from consuming cheap hooch.
In April, eight people died including two soldiers after drinking tainted liquor in the western desert state of Rajasthan.
More than 100 people died in Mumbai last year after drinking illegal homemade moonshine in a slum.
Nearly three billion litres of legal liquor and an estimated two billion litres of hooch are consumed in India annually, according to the International Spirits and Wines Association.