Moonshine made with methanol —or wood alcohol—has killed 102 people in Mumbai, with the death toll rising daily, NDTV reports. Seven people have been arrested and eight police officers suspended in relation to what local media are calling the "Mumbai hooch racket."
The deaths have been centered in Malvani, a slum in the western part of the city. Some locals are accusing the police of turning a blind eye toward an organized operation which involved importing the wood alcohol from another state before adding it to a home-brew and selling it to the slum's residents, DNA India reports.
Following the deaths, the state department that oversees alcohol sales is calling for the federal government to classify wood alcohol as a poison, Indian Express reports. The department's commissioner said that ethanol is usually used to make alcohol stronger, but some bootleggers turn to the more potent - and, when consumed, more deadly - methanol.
"While ethanol is a spirit, methanol is a petroleum byproduct. We, therefore, will write to the state government, which will, in turn, write to the Centre to classify methanol as a poison,” Excise Commissioner S D Shinde told Indian Express.
This isn't the first time the city has seen deaths on such a large scale as a result of illegal alcohol brewing. According to the Hindustan Times, another supply of contaminated liquor lead to 87 deaths in 2004. It took eight years for the 19 suspects charged in that case to be convicted.
Locals say police have done little to curb the illegal trade since the 2004 tragedy, and despite several complaints against the main seller in this case.
"We are furious with the police and excise department for taking no action against the hooch sellers despite their being active for so long," the wife of one of the victims, auto rickshaw driver Mehboob Shaikh, told the Times of India.