An Indian patient who drank toxic bootleg liquor is treated at Kushal Konwar Civil Hospital in Golaghat district in the northeastern Indian state of Assam on February 23, 2019. - Sixty-nine workers have died and at least 200 others have been hospitalised in northeastern India after drinking toxic liquor, officials said February 23, in the latest case of alcohol poisoning in the country. (Photo by Biju BORO / AFP)        (Photo credit should read BIJU BORO/AFP/Getty Images)
Bootleg alcohol deaths hit India's poor hardest
02:30 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

102 die and 46 are hospitalized after drinking illegal moonshine in Mumbai

6 people have been arrested for their role in peddling the toxic homebrew and 8 police suspended

Deaths from bad batches of moonshine are not uncommon in India

Mumbai CNN  — 

Toxic moonshine has killed 102 people and seriously sickened scores of others of drinkers from a Mumbai slum, Indian police say.

Forty-six others have been hospitalized, with many in a critical condition, after consuming the illegal homebrew, Mumbai police spokesman Dhananjay Kulkarni told CNN.

Authorities said four men and two women had been booked over the deaths, on charges including culpable homicide, poisoning and abetting a crime.

Eight local police have also been suspended for negligence, he said, while the suspect liquor has been sent for testing.

The incident took place near Laxmi Nagar, a large slum in Mumbai, India’s financial capital.

Deaths from cheap, illegally brewed liquor – often containing toxic methanol – are not uncommon in India.

The moonshine is typically brewed in villages before being smuggled into cities, where it sells for about 10 cents a glass – about a third the price of legally brewed liquor.

More than 160 people died from drinking a bad batch of moonshine in West Bengal in 2011, while in January, at least 25 people died and 125 were hospitalized after drinking illegal homebrew in Uttar Pradesh.

Drinking ‘to cope’

There were emotional scenes in Laxmi Nagar slum Monday as the body of another victim was returned to his family.

Loud wails came from a crowd of about 200 people which had gathered to see the body of Satyavel Nagan Kawander brought home.

Kawander, a 35-year-old day laborer, left behind a wife and three children under the age of 11, they said.

Nearby, a young boy who had lost his father had his head shaved, a traditional Hindu sign of mourning.

A boy has his head shaved as a sign of mourning for his father.

Many men in the desperately poor slum work as manual laborers, separating garbage or cleaning gutters, earning 50 – 100 rupees ($0.78-$1.57) a day, locals told CNN.

They tended to drink to cope with the stresses of their jobs dealing with garbage or human sewage, said Uma Chandra Harijan, whose husband, a gutter cleaner, is now battling for his life.

“They have to drink to get rid of the smell, to numb their senses,” she said, adding that her husband drank every night.

Harijan, who has a son, 3, and a 15-day-old daughter, also lost her father to the illegal moonshine.

Uma Chandra Harijan lost her father to the toxic moonshine and her husband is battling for his life.

Nearby, Jyoti Sangar Sankate was mourning her husband, who had been a drinker for years, she said.

“I don’t know what happened this time,” she said.

“He came home and vomited, said he was losing vision. His body started shaking. He died the same day.”

Locals pointed out two houses in the slum they said the local bootleggers operated from; both were closed Monday.