Thirty laborers have died and over a hundred have fallen ill after consuming toxic alcohol in Tamil Nadu A customer purchases liquor from the counter at a liquor store in Chennai on June 14, 2021. © Arun SANKAR / AFP

At least 34 people were declared dead on Thursday after consuming contaminated local liquor in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

A group of daily-wage laborers from Karunapuram settlement in the Kallakurichi district are said to have drunk the toxic alcohol on June 18. According to the district’s top official, M S Prasanth, the victims had consumed ‘packet arrack,’ an adulterated form of liquor. It is believed that the deaths occurred due to the presence of methanol in the liquor.

According to Indian media, over 100 people are still undergoing treatment across various hospitals in the region.

M K Stalin, the chief minister of the state, has ordered a commission headed by a retired judge to conduct an inquiry into the incident. Stalin announced a payment of 1 million rupees (around $12,000) for the families of the deceased, while those undergoing treatment will receive 50,000 rupees ($600). “The Kallakurichi incident which has caused me so much pain is something that should not have happened,” he posted on X (formerly Twitter).

Opposition politicians have reacted angrily, questioning why such incidents continue to happen under the rule of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party, led by Stalin.

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In 2023, 22 people died in twin liquor-related tragedies in the Villupuram and Chengalpattu districts of the same state.

K Annamalai, the Tamil Nadu president of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – which continues to dominate politics at the federal level as part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) bloc following the recent election – has announced that the party will organize a protest against the local government for its “incompetence” in curbing the production and sale of illicit liquor.

Joseph Vijay Chandrasekhar, a popular Tamil actor who also heads the Tamilaga Vettri Kazhagam party, attributed the incident to the “indifference” of the government.

Since independence, liquor-related tragedies have claimed the lives of hundreds of people across India. Spurious liquor is mainly consumed by those from lower socio-economic status in the South Asian country, owing to their inability to purchase alcohol from licensed shops.

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