The number of people who died after drinking illegally brewed alcohol in northern India rose to 72 Saturday as authorities began a crackdown and suspended police and officials.
At least 64 people had died in Saharanpur and Haridwar, adjoining districts of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand states, after drinking the poisonous liquor.
Eight more deaths, blamed on tainted liquor, were reported in Kushinagar district, also in Uttar Pradesh, regional official BD Gupta said.
In Saharanpur district, the death toll climbed from 16 to 36, top administrative official Alok Pandey said. The villagers drank the tainted liquor Thursday.
The liquor was suspected of being laced with methanol.
The Saharanpur police, who are working on the assumption that the alcohol may have come from the same source, arrested 30 people, many of them bootleggers. They seized more than 2,000 pints of tainted liquor in raids.
Authorities in the region also suspended over 30 officials, including 10 policemen, on charges of negligence or collusion in the illicit trade.
They said they would demand death penalty for those involved in the illicit trade once the case reaches court.
Later Saturday, authorities in both states announced compensation of $2,800 each to the relatives of those killed.
An average of 1,000 people, mostly from poorer sections of society, die in India each year after consuming illegally brewed alcohol, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.
The liquor is usually made with poor-quality ingredients and sometimes mixed with industrial alcohol and toxic substances.