At least 39 people died and several more were in a critical condition in several villages of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand after they consumed country liquor between Wednesday and Thursday, officials in both states said on Friday. The deaths were reported between Thursday and Friday from villages in Haridwar district of Uttarakhand, and Saharanpur and Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh. At least one of the sources for the poisonous liquor may have been in Saharanpur, with officials in Uttarakhand saying they had detained four people who smuggled pouches of it from the UP town.“The liquor was smuggled into these villages from its source in Saharanpur. So far, we have got some inputs about the villages in Saharanpur where this spurious liquor is being manufactured. We have already sent a team there which is investigating with Saharanpur police as deaths were reported from there also,” said senior superintendent of police, Haridwar, Janmejay Khanduri. The number of dead in Uttarakhand was put at 13 while 40 others were in hospital.Saharanpur, bordering Uttarakhand, reported 18 deaths.Most of the victims had gone to one of the Uttarakhand villages where they consumed the liquor. In Kushinagar, which comes under chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s Gorakhpur division, the number of fatalities stood at nine. Several officials were suspended in both states, with Uttar Pradesh taking action against seven excise and seven police officials. A state government spokesperson said chief minister Adityanath had announced a compensation of ₹2 lakh each for the families of those dead and ₹50,000 each for those undergoing treatment. The sale and consumption of hooch is a problem in rural districts across the country, as illegal brewers run fly-by-night operations to evade hefty levies and taxes. The harm comes from methanol content, which can increase in liquor that is not brewed properly. Methanol is also added in trace amounts to increase the potency of liquor.“We didn’t know that spurious liquor was being consumed which caused this tragedy. We will now support anti-liquor and liquor prohibition drives in the area as this incident has opened our eyes,” said Seth Ram, one of the villagers who was taken ill in Uttarakhand.