Gujarat introduces death penalty for toxic alcohol

A hooch tragedy victim being taken to hospital Illicit liquor has killed many people in Gujarat over the years

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The illegal manufacture and sale of toxic alcohol in the western Indian state of Gujarat will now be punishable by death.

The governor of the state, Kamala Beniwal, has given her assent to the new law after keeping it on hold for more than two years.

Gujarat has witnessed many incidents of people dying after consuming poison alcohol.

The government says the law will deter those involved in the illegal trade.

Gujarat is the only state in India where alcohol is totally prohibited by law.

The state legislative assembly passed the new stringent bill after scores of people died in one incident in 2009. But the governor refused to sign it into law.

Correspondents say she wanted the provision of the death penalty to be dropped from the bill, but the state government did not agree.

It was then referred to the central government for "legal opinion", and the governor gave her approval only after getting the nod from Delhi.

The law will also allow the authorities to impound and auction vehicles used for transporting contraband.

Poor victims

Illegal alcohol - commonly called desi daroo or country-made liquor in Gujarat - is usually sold in 200ml plastic pouches for 10 rupees (20 cents) each. The majority of the consumers are poor, daily wage workers.

The pouches are transported into the state's main city, Ahmedabad, by couriers on motorcycles and scooters. Sometimes they slip into the state capital carrying jerry cans containing the alcohol.

The alcohol is then sold from shantytown shacks which dot the city.

Local residents and journalists allege that the police are on the take and collect "protection money" from the dealers.

Gujarat's toxic liquor is usually spiked with methyl alcohol and industrial spirits which can lead to fits, vomiting and death.

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