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Indian police arrest two dozen people after tainted alcohol kills at least 69 in Punjab

Police in India have arrested more than two dozen people on suspicion of selling tainted alcohol that killed at least 69 villagers and others in the northern state of Punjab.

Six police officers and seven other officials have been suspended for failing to prevent the sale of tainted alcohol as a magistrate began an investigation into the deaths in three districts.

Police officer Roshan Lal said on Saturday that 69 people have died, though local media reports put the number at 86.

Dinkar Gupta, the police chief for Punjab state, said the first five deaths were reported on Wednesday night in two villages in Amritsar district.

In the following three days another 48 deaths were reported in Amritsar and two others districts, Tarn Taran and Batala.

Mr Gupta said the 25 suspects supplied the tainted alcohol to roadside eateries from where it was sold to travellers and the villagers.

The government statement said the deaths were due to "spurious" liquor and a crackdown on illegal alcohol manufacturing in the state was ordered.

Deaths from illegally brewed alcohol are common in India, where the poor cannot afford licensed brands from government-run shops. Illicit liquor is cheap and often spiked with methanol to increase potency.

In 2019, at least 133 people died after drinking tainted alcohol in two separate incidents in India's northeast Assam state.

The victims were mostly tea plantation workers. That same year, another 80 people died from tainted liquor in northern Uttar Pradesh state.

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