The number of deaths from consumption of spurious country liquor in Punjab’s Hoshiarpur district has gone up to 18, police officials said in Hoshiarpur on Friday.
Six more people, including one of the accused arrested by the Punjab Police on Thursday, were among those who died on Friday.
Jalandhar range Inspector General (IG) of Police R.P. Mittal said that Kala, one of the two accused arrested on Thursday, also died Friday while he was being taken by the police to conduct raids at places where spurious liquor was being and sold.
At least 35 more people, who had consumed the spurious liquor, were still being treated in hospitals in Dasuya, Tanda and Hoshiarpur. The serious ones were shifted to hospitals in Jalandhar and Amritsar, officials said.
A total of 12 people from three villages - Kaalwan, Miyani and Giljian - in Dasuya sub-division of Hoshiarpur district, 190 km from Chandigarh, were killed on Thursday after they drank spurious country liquor.
But villagers claimed that the toll was over 23 as more people had died in the three to four days before Thursday's tragedy.
One of the victims, Sodhi, who died Friday, was the son of another victim, Riaz, who died Thursday, police sources said.
There was a pall of gloom in all the affected villages as the number of deaths kept going up Friday.
"In Kaalwan, one death has been reported practically from every home," Parminder Singh, who visited the village, said.
Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on Thursday ordered a magisterial inquiry into the hooch deaths.
Badal asked Director General of Police (DGP) PS Gill to order an independent inquiry by the zonal inspector general of police. The report of the police inquiry has been sought within seven days.
Most of the victims were farm labourers and farmers from the three villages.
Police had arrested two people, Jaswant Singh and Kala, following the incident and raids were conducted at various places, including adjoining Gurdaspur district, to destroy illegally manufactured liquor.
Villagers told police that at least five to six people from the same area had died mysteriously in the last few days. The deaths were also suspected to have been caused by spurious liquor.