Bootleg liquor kills at least 84 in northeast India

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At least 84 people have died from drinking toxic bootleg liquor in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam, and around 200 others have been hospitalised, a state government minister said on Saturday.

The deaths come less than two weeks after more than 100 people died from drinking tainted alcohol in two northern Indian states, Uttar hand and Uttar Pradesh.

Police have arrested 12 people in connection with making bootleg alcohol in Assam, practice local politicians say is rampant in the area’s tea estates, where it is drunk by poorly-paid labourers after a tough day’s work in the plantations.

“Every ten minutes, we are getting reports of casualties from different places. So far, about 200 people are in hospital with many of them critical,” Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told Reuters via telephone.

“Doctors from nearby districts and other medical colleges have been rushed in to deal with the crisis,” said Sarma, after visiting patients at Jorhat, located some 300 kilometres east of the state’s financial hub, Guwahati.

Deaths from illegally produced alcohol, known locally as hooch or country liquor, are common in India, where many cannot afford branded spirits.

The death tolls from the two recent incidents, however, are believed to be the deadliest since a similar case killed 172 in West Bengal in 2011.