Guwahati: The death toll in Assam hooch tragedy rose to 135 on Sunday even as over 300 others remain hospitalised due to the consumption of illicit liquor, Zee News reported. A large number of them had fallen ill after consuming spurious liquor on Thursday night and 12 of them were declared dead when they were rushed to the hospital for treatment after falling ill, triggering protests and outrage among the locals.
According to reports, the tea estate workers consumed 'sulai' locally brewed liquor made of jaggery and ethyl alcohol. "The people came to the hospital with severe vomiting, extreme chest pain and breathlessness", doctor Ratul Bordoloi, joint director of Golaghat's health department, told AFP.
Two forensic scientists, Abhijit Gogoi and Rupam Lachit, who collected samples of the killer liquor from the sites in the two districts, said they would find the cause of death by Monday evening.
Agarwal said police are pursuing other people believed to be connected to the racket as part of an ongoing investigation.
Expressing grief over the deaths, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Saturday announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each to the families of the deceased and Rs 50,000 to the ones getting treated at the hospital.
Deaths from illegally brewed alcohol are common in India because the poor can not afford licensed brands from government-run shops. Bootleggers often add methanol - a highly toxic form of alcohol sometimes used as an anti-freeze - to their mixture to increase its strength. Earlier this month, at least 90 people had died in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand after drinking spurious liquor.
About 100 people died after consuming the tainted moonshine.
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. Of the estimated five billion litres of alcohol drunk every year in India, around 40 percent is illegally produced, according to the International Spirits and Wine Association of India.
Bihar, one of India's poorest states, banned alcohol in 2016.
The entire staff of a local police station in the eastern state were suspended for "dereliction of duty" and failure to stop bootlegging.