19 people dead and six blinded after drinking tainted liquor in India
At least 19 people have died and another six have been blinded after drinking tainted liquor in northern India over the weekend, police said.
Another 50 people fell ill after consuming the home-brewed liquor on Friday and were being treated in hospitals in Etah district in Uttar Pradesh state, senior police officer Ajay Shankar Rai said.
The Press Trust of India news agency put the death toll at 21.
Mr Rai said the victims bought the liquor from a village shop on Friday evening and started falling ill and dying.
The shop owner, who has been arrested, was selling a pouch of tainted liquor for a mere 15 rupees (20p), six times cheaper than the legal drink, he said.
Most of the victims were poor farmers and labourers, looking for a cheap means of intoxication.
India's poor often buy cheap home-brewed liquor made of syrups and medicines that are spiked with methyl alcohol and other industrial spirits to give it a kick.
District Magistrate Ajay Yadav ordered an investigation, but an excessive use of methyl alcohol in the liquor appears to have caused the deaths.
State authorities have suspended six officials, including four policemen, for allowing the sale of illicit liquor in Etah district, nearly 240 kilometres (150 miles) south-west of Lucknow, the Uttar Pradesh state capital.
Illicit liquor is a hugely profitable industry across India, with manufacturers operating from homes, hidden warehouses and even forests.