PATNA, India ( Associated Press) — At least 31 people have died in eastern India and 20 others were hospitalized in critical condition, officials said Thursday.
The victims were from three villages in Saran district of Bihar state, where the manufacture, sale and consumption of liquor is prohibited.
The death was reported on Tuesday and Wednesday at a district government hospital where the family members had taken the sick, said Dr SD Sinha, director of the hospital.
The sale and consumption of alcohol was banned in the state of Bihar in 2016 after a women’s campaign focused on poor workers who were wasting their meager income on drink.
Police officer Santosh Kumar said many of the 20 people admitted to the hospital had lost their eyesight.
Several opposition parties such as the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) staged a protest outside the state assembly building on Thursday demanding lifting of the liquor ban and financial compensation to the families of the victims.
State BJP leader Sushil Modi said over 1,000 people have died after consuming adulterated liquor since prohibition was implemented six years ago. The BJP that rules India is in opposition in the state.
Nitish Kumar, the state’s highest-ranking elected official and a member of the Samajwadi Janata Dal party, rejected her requests, saying the ban was “not my personal wish, but a response to the voice of women in the state.”
Three people have been detained for questioning for allegedly selling adulterated liquor in the area, he said. Saran district is located about 60 kilometers (40 mi) north of Patna, the capital of Bihar state.
Deaths from illegally produced alcohol are common in India, where moonshine is cheap and often combined with chemicals such as pesticides to make it more potent. Bootlegging has also become a highly profitable industry in the country, where bootleggers pay no taxes and sell large quantities of the product at low prices to the poor.