Police believe the deaths occurred when victims across two neighboring states drank from the same batch of illegal homemade brew, which was produced by a criminal group operating between Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
The majority of the deaths were reported in Uttar Pradesh, with 36 dying in Saharanpur district and eight in Kushinagar, according to district officials. Thirty-six people died in Uttarakhand’s Haridwar district, Janmejay Khanduri, the region’s police superintendent, told CNN.
“From our investigations, we have found that the chemical was transported from Haridwar to Saharanpur,” he told CNN, adding that authorities were waiting for test results to confirm the chemical used.
The investigation into the poisonous liquor is ongoing and eight people, including the two sellers, have been arrested, police spokesperson Shalin Sharma said.
About 400 liters of illicit booze was seized during joint operations by police in both states.
Police said the criminal group conducted its operations out of villages hidden in the forests, where the toxic drinks were mixed.
“Regarding the source of the alcohol, we have found traces of several locations in the forests where the liquor was produced,” Dinesh Kumar, superintendent of police in Saharanpur told reporters on Saturday. “There are three or four villages where there are criminals whose profession it is to make this alcohol.”
Deaths from cheap, illegally brewed liquor — often containing toxic methanol — are not uncommon in India.