Spurious sanitiser blended with methanol caused the death of at least 16 people who consumed it in lieu of liquor in Prakasam district in Andhra Pradesh late last month, and ten people involved in its illicit distribution have been arrested, police said on Tuesday.
The victims, who were habitual tipplers, consumed hand sanitiser as an alternative to liquor, as regular shops were closed due to COVID-19-imposed lockdown, in Kurichedu in Prakasam district on different dates last month and died.
A special investigation team of the district police found that a particular sanitiser named Perfect Gold caused the deaths as it was made of toxic methanol instead of ethanol, Prakasam Superintendent of Police Siddharth Kaushal said on Tuesday.
A person named Sale Srinivas alias Jajula of Vikarabad district in Telangana made the sanitiser illegally, along with his brother Siva Kumar, from a rented room in Hyderabad city and started selling it through various channels, he said.
Another person Kesav Agarwal took up distribution of the spurious product as the profits were high, the SP told reporters in Ongole, adding that Md Dawood and Md Hazi Sab of Jeedimetla in Hyderabad supplied the methanol and other material for sanitiser manufacturing to Srinivas.
"Our SIT arrested these five persons. Later, owners of five medical shops in Kurichedu were also arrested for selling the spurious sanitiser, exhibiting culpable negligence," Mr Kaushal said.
In fact, eight brands of sanitiser were consumed by rickshaw pullers, some beggars and other poor people in Kurichedu who were otherwise addicted to liquor.
The SP said seven other brands were also tested during the course of the investigation and they were found to be "okay."