Police say 39 people have died and another 27 fallen sick from drinking spurious liquor containing toxic methanol in several villages in northern India. Senior police officer Ashok Kumar says 26 died in two separate incidents in the state of Uttar Pradesh, 190 miles east of the New Delhi capital, while 13 others died in the neighboring state of Uttarakhand, per the AP. Kumar said victims consumed liquor during two customary feasts on Thursday night, adding that the post-mortem and initial forensic reports suggested that the brew was laced with methanol.
Police have arrested eight suspected bootleggers, while the provincial governments have suspended 35 officials, including 12 police. Deaths from illegally brewed alcohol are common in India because the poor can't afford licensed brands. Illicit liquor is cheap and often spiked with chemicals such as pesticides to increase potency. Illicit liquor has also become a hugely profitable industry across India, where bootleggers pay no taxes and sell enormous quantities of their product to the poor at a cheap rate. (Read more India stories.)