- 36 died in UP's Saharanpur, 8 in Kushinagar and 28 deaths in Uttarkhand
- 2 dozen people are still in hospital and the number of deaths could rise
- Over 30 people have been arrested for the tragedy so far: UP Police
At least 72 people have died in the last three days after consuming adulterated liquor in Uttar Pradesh and neighbouring Uttarkhand. Officials say while 36 died in Western Uttar Pradesh's Saharanpur district, eight deaths were reported from eastern UP's Kushinagar. In Uttarkhand, 28 deaths have been reported.
With nearly two dozen people still in hospital, doctors say the number of deaths could rise.
In Saharanpur, the UP police claim the liquor was first consumed in neighbouring Uttarakhand where villagers from Saharanpur has gone to attend a funeral and was then also smuggled back to the Saharanpur district by a villager who then sold it to others. In Kushinagar, the government says the liquor could have originated in Bihar - where ironically there is total prohibition.
"If early treatment was taken then the death toll would be much lesser. The second thing is that a man called Pintu came back with 30 pouches and sold them. One or two pouches have been recovered and anyone who drank from those pouches is also dead or in hospital," said Saharanpur District Magistrate AK Pandey.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said the guilty will not be spared. "We are investigating the matter, whether it happened due to illicit liquor or it was a mischief done by some people. Earlier, several Samajwadi leaders were arrested in such kind of mischievous incidents... We are paying Rs 2 lakh compensation to the family of those who died, and Rs 50,000 for people whose treatment is going on in hospitals," Mr Adityanath said.
The state police have started a crackdown on illicit liquor manufacture and sales at the instructions of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Raids have been conducted in various parts of the state including Banda where a large quantity of illicit liquor was seized.
"We will catch everyone involved, either this side of the border or that side. This will be an ongoing operation. We cannot deny the deaths but we will clamp down, we have been applying pressure on the border areas and we don't know the manufacture of spurious liquor in our areas," said Saharanpur Superintendent of Police Dinesh Kumar.
Uttar Pradesh government has already suspended the District Excise Officer and District Excise Inspector of Kushinagar, among many others.
Many other police officers have also been suspended by the government. The UP police says over 30 people have been arrested for the tragedy so far and stringer sections of the law including the Gangster Act and the National Security Act will be applied against them. The government says all those arrested were involved in the manufacture and distribution of illicit liquor.
Since 2011, over 175 people have died in eight adulterated tragedies across UP. Four of those incidents have happened during Yogi Adityanath's tenure as UP chief minister.