Thirty-two people have died in Punjab's three districts allegedly after drinking spurious liquor, prompting Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to order a magisterial probe, officials said on Friday. The deaths took place in Punjab's Amritsar, Batala and Tarn Taran districts since Wednesday night, an official statement said.
The death toll increased to 38 by Friday night.
While 13 people died in Tarn Taran, 11 died in Amritsar and eight in Batala.
Eight people have been arrested so far in connection with the deaths.
Punjab Director General of Police (DGP) Dinkar Gupta said the first five fatalities were reported from Mucchal and Tangra villages in Amritsar's Tarsikka on the night of July 29.
On Thursday evening, two more people died under suspicious circumstances at Amritsar's Muchhal village. One person died at Sri Guru Ram Das Hospital in Amritsar after being shifted from Tangra. Two more deaths were later reported from Mucchal village while another two people died in Batala, also due to consumption of spurious liquor.
On Friday, five people died in Batala, taking the death toll in the city to seven, said Gupta, adding that four fatalities were reported from Tarn Taran.
Singh has ordered a magisterial inquiry by the Jalandhar Divisional Commissioner into the deaths allegedly due to the consumption of spurious liquor, said the official statement. The inquiry will look into the facts and circumstances leading to the incidents.
The inquiry will be conducted by the Jalandhar Divisional Commissioner along with the Punjab Joint Excise and Taxation Commissioner and the SP (Investigation) in the concerned districts.
Singh has given the Divisional Commissioner the liberty to co-opt any civil/police officer or any expert to facilitate the expeditious conduct of the probe.
Meanwhile, the police have arrested Balwinder Kaur, a resident of Muchhal village, under Section 304 of the IPC (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and under provisions of the Excise Act, said the DGP.
Singh has promised strict action against anyone found complicit in the case and directed police to launch a search operation to crack down on any spurious liquor manufacturing unit operating in the state.
The post-mortem of four people -- Jaswinder Singh, Kashmir Singh, Kirpal Singh and Jaswant Singh--will be conducted on Friday to ascertain the exact cause of their death, the statement said.
According to it, the victims have been identified as Mangal Singh, Balwinder Singh, Dalbir Singh, Gurpreet Singh, Kashmir Singh, Kaka Singh, Kirpal Singh, Jaswant Singh and Joga Singh, all residents of Muchhal village; and Baldev Singh of Tangra. Those who died in Batala have been identified as Buta Ram, Bhinda, Riku Singh, Kala, Kalu, Billa and Jatinder.
Those who died in Tarn Taran are Sahib Singh, Harban Singh, Sukhdev Singh and Dharam Singh.
(With inputs from agencies)