19 die from 'free alcohol'

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The Independent Online

Free alcohol distributed by village politicians to win votes in India's largest state has killed 19 people over two days and was found to be laced with insecticides and other potent chemicals.

Five people died overnight and 20 others were taken ill in Gorakhpur, 155 miles south-east of Lucknow, the state capital of Uttar Pradesh, said government spokesman Narendra Sinha.

"It was a free for all. Villagers came in hordes to have free alcohol and food. Within hours, people started vomiting. Before they could be shifted to hospital five persons died," Sinha said. Some were in serious condition, he added.

On Wednesday, 14 people had similarly died in two separate villages after being served spurious alcohol, said CN Upadhaya, joint commissioner of the excise department that monitors alcohol sales.