In one of the worst mass poisonings in recent memory, 143 people are confirmed dead after consuming liquor laced with methanol in a rural section of Eastern India. At least 10 suspected bootleggers have been arrested in the case.
The victims purchased the lethal brew in small shops near Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). Many of the victims were day laborers, street hawkers and rickshaw drivers, but several children were also among the dead. Illegal alcohol remains a large problem in India's slums where the poor cannot afford the prices of state-sanctioned alcohol. Many of the victims gathered by the train tracks to drink after work and purchased the alcohol for 20 cents a half liter.
Police suspect the alcohol came from an "illegal distillery in the village of Mograhat" and are currently looking for the kingpin of the operation.
"People don't know what they are drinking," Johnson Edayaranmula, executive director of the Indian Alcohol Policy Alliance, said. "It's all easy money, big profits. No one is bothered by the health or social consequences. Many people are getting a share out of it, so who is going to take action against these people."