The victims consumed unregulated moonshine, known locally as “country-made liquor.”
Police arrested 10 people and are questioning others suspected of being involved in the supply of liquor in the area, said Mukesh Agarwal, a senior police official in Golaghat district in northeastern Assam state.
The first cases, reported Thursday evening, indicated most victims were tea garden workers, said Manoj Baruah, an official in Jorhat, the other district where cases were reported.
“It is a case of alcohol poisoning, and it has affected a few tea gardens and villages surrounding them in this district,” said Partha Pratim Saikia, a senior police official in Assam.
Illicit booze is cheaper but can kill
The incident is the latest in India’s long battle to control fake or illegal alcohol, which is affordable and readily available to many impoverished people.
Country-made liquor often contains toxic methanol, which can make people feel inebriated. However, even a very small amount can be toxic. Methanol poisoning can cause confusion, dizziness, drowsiness, headaches and the inability to coordinate muscle movements.