Indian Police Arrest Man Responsible for Distribution of Tainted Alcohol

Posted February 1st, 2012 at 3:35 pm (UTC-5)
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Police in India's West Bengal state have arrested a key figure responsible for distributing poisonous homemade liquor, which kills hundreds of people every year throughout the country.

In early January, at least 15 people died and 24 others were hospitalized after buying cheap alcohol from bootleggers in eastern Andhra Pradesh state.

In December, 155 people died in the Sangrampur area of West Bengal state after consuming illegal liquor laced with methanol. In addition, at least 135 people were sickened.

Homemade alcohol is illegal and a widespread problem in India. The government taxes alcohol heavily — in part, to discourage heavy drinking. Furthermore, licit liquor is only available at fixed government-licensed stores.

But a former tax official says higher taxes mean that poor people cannot afford licit liquor and turn to so-called “hooch,” which is very cheap and readily available “at every nook and corner of a village or a town.”

Makers of hooch, also known as “country liquor,” use a very crude distillation process that can leave many impurities in the final product. They sometimes add chemical extenders, even fuel products, that can produce deadly consequences.

Although authorities are trying to close down illegal distilleries, small hooch-producing operations are numerous and often spring up just as quickly as they are shut down.