Uttar Pradesh, India – May 31, 2019

Only 3 months after one of the largest mass liquor poisoning in the northern state of Utter Pradesh, authorities in India are investigating a new wave of similar deaths. Authorities are unable to provide exact numbers with victims from numerous towns attended to at several local hospitals and clinics, as well as many cremated before autopsies could be performed.

The officially released numbers from this recent spate of liquor poisoning deaths in Uttar Pradesh is currently listed as 17 dead, with 44 patients still being treated in hospitals along with long term care facilities.

All those affected exhibited classic symptoms of methanol poisoning included extreme vomiting, loss of sight, breathing complications with major organ failure. Those that remain in treatment are on dialysis at various medical facilities. Many are in critical condition and may yet succumb to the deadly effects of methanol consumption.

Unlike the February 2019 incident where over 100 were confirmed dead from country liquor purchased in various locations, the source of this poison liquor appears to be an authorized shop of the excise department at Raniganj market in the Ramnagar area of Barabanki district. This shop is about 60 miles from Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh.

Immediate suspension of over a dozen excise officials was imposed while the investigation continues. Three others at the shop including the owner were also implicated in the first information report that was issued. The owner of the shop in question, Pappu Jaiswal, was later arrested after a confrontation with police that ended with his hospitalization for undisclosed injuries. Although authorities pointed to two brands of liquor as the source of the poisonings, they failed to name them in public statements.

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As in the February incident, local politics play a role in the investigation of the incident. Chief Minister Adityanath directed senior officials to act, demanding a report within 48 hours. A similar edict was issued in February with a task force formed. That report has still not been made available to the public.

Mr. Adityanath is blaming members of the Samajwadi Party, claiming they are involved in the bootleg liquor industry providing them with protection and distribution outlets. In a state where poverty flourishes, the fake liquor producers are among the wealthiest with an ability to buy the political protection of all parties.

Elections that are only days away adds to the political infighting and accusations that will taint this investigation. The political accusations along with the fanfare of public investigations does little to comfort the families of the deceased or future victims of an entrenched fake alcohol industry that has Uttar Pradesh in its grips.

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