72 killed after consuming illicit liquor in India

39 dead and dozens sick after drinking illicit toxic liquor in India

Eight more deaths, blamed on tainted liquor, were reported in Kushinagar district, also in Uttar Pradesh, regional official BD Gupta said.

Officials confirmed the death toll has mounted to 72, however, local media reports suggest the tragedy has claimed over 100 lives.

In the adjoining Haridwar district, the death toll had risen to 28 from 12 on Friday, Indian broadcaster NDTV reported.

The district magistrate of Saharanpur district in Uttar Pradesh, Alok Kumar Pandey, said last week that doctors had concluded many victims died "due to liver infection and problems in their respiratory system". Authorities launched a crackdown and suspended police and officials.

Eighteen people were hospitalised and undergoing treatment.

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Police in both states have arrested 200 people involved in the illicit trade, many of them bootleggers. Illicit liquor is cheap and often spiked with chemicals such as pesticides to increase potency.

Uttar Pradesh state police officer Ashok Kumar said Monday that 49 people died in two separate incidents in that state while 30 people who consumed a toxic brew in neighboring Uttarakhand state also died.

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.

"46 post-mortems were carried out and 36 deaths attributed to consumption of poisonous alcohol".

Weddings, a funeral party and a prayer gathering in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand bore the brunt of the fatalities, with at least 59 people killed after a party in the northern town of Saharanpur alone.

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