06/20/2015, 00.00
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Seventy-four people die in Mumbai in three days from toxic liquor

by Nirmala Carvalho
Six people have been arrested and eight police officers suspended in connection with the sale of illegal alcohol. The victims are poor, day labourers living in slums. The auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese calls on people to learn from Pope Francis’ encyclical, which teaches that there should be “no room for selfishness and indifference in the world”.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Seventy-four people have died in Mumbai after drinking illegal liquor three days ago. However, the final tally is expected to change as 31 additional people still languish in hospital in critical conditions.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has ordered an investigation to determine who was responsible in the incident. Meanwhile, six people, including a woman, have been arrested in connection with the sale of toxic alcohol.

Police yesterday also suspended eight officers, including the chief inspector at police headquarters in Malwani, for alleged involvement.

The victims were poor, mostly from the slums of Laxmi Nagar, and worked as daily labourers or rickshaw drivers.

According to police, they probably consumed very low-quality brew Wednesday evening in a bar in the village of Rathodi. The first symptoms of poisoning occurred the next day, with severe abdominal pain and vomiting.

"The Church of Mumbai is mourning this devastating tragedy,” said the city’s auxiliary bishop, Mgr Dominic Savio Fernandes. “Usually, the poor are the ones who suffer the most in such circumstances. Families are destroyed and economic problems aggravated when breadwinners die.”

In view of these deaths, “the Holy Father’s encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ (Praised be to you!) is an immense gift. There is no room for selfishness and indifference in the world the papal document describes.”

For the prelate, one cannot care for the rest of nature “if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings” (No. 91). 

Poisoning and death from low-quality alcoholic beverages is not a rare event in India. Almost 170 people died in West Bengal in 2011. In Uttar Pradesh, at least 30 died in 2009 and more than 100 suffered the same fate in Gujarat in the same year.

For the city of Mumbai, the latest incident is the second worst incident since 2004, when 87 people died.

Typically, homemade booze contains methanol and industrial alcohol, a mixture that can lead to seizures, vomiting and death.

Given its very low cost (about 10 rupees, a few cents), it is widely consumed by poor day labourers.

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