The death toll in Gujarat's worst moonshine tragedy has risen to 136 with 26 more people dying in city hospitals after consuming illicit liquor, officials said Saturday.
This is the highest death toll in Gujarat from consuming moonshine since 1989 when 132 people had died in a matter of days in Vadodara.
People began dying Monday after having consumed illicit liquor. By midnight Friday, 136 lives had been lost.
While a large number of people are still being brought to hospitals, Gujarat police suspect that a small quantity of the same batch of the illicit liquor distributed in Kagdapith, Odhav and Amraiwadi localities of Ahmedabad since July 5 may still be under circulation in other parts of the city.
'We suspect traces of the same killer brew are still in circulation as some patients have arrived in hospitals from 'Bawa Ki Chali' from eastern parts of the city for treatment as late as Friday night. This also indicates that there might be some small bootleggers still on the loose in the city who are selling country liquor in other parts of Ahmedabad,' said an official in the Crime Branch of the city police.
He said that while nearly 50 bootleggers in Ahmedabad have already been rounded up, there could be some small operators who have not been nabbed.
'As per the latest toll we suspect that people in slum clutters of Odhav and Amraiwadi are still buying country liquor through some bootlegger in the area,' the official said.
The number of patients admitted so far in the four Ahmedabad hospitals - Civil Hospital, V.S. Hospital, LG Hospital and Shardaben Hospital - rose to 276 with nearly 100 still under observation either in ICUs or surgical wards.
Meanwhile, the alleged key bootlegger, Harishankar Kahar, nabbed by the Crime Branch, has been sent to police remand for 14 days by a local court.
Embarrassed by the scale of the tragedy in a state where consumption and sale of liquor is officially banned, police have swept through Gujarat in search of those illegally selling home-made liquor.
On Thursday, Gujarat closed down 1,200 liquor dens and arrested over 800 illegal brewers.
Gujarat is the country's only state where sale and consumption of liquor is banned in deference to Mahatma Gandhi, a Gujarati who was passionately opposed to liquor.
This has led to a proliferation of illegal liquor dens, whose home-made brew is mostly consumed by those from low income families who can't afford high priced drinks available outside the state.