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Gujurat state leader faces calls to quit as bootleg alcohol poisoning kills 107 in India

• Protesters attack buses and bootleg stores

• Narendra Modi appeals for calm as death toll rises

Gujarat-Narendra-Modi-boo-002.jpg The Gujarat state chief minister, Narendra Modi, is facing calls to quit following the deaths of 107 people after drinking toxic bootleg alcohol. Photograph: Siddharth Darshan Kumar/AP

One of India's leading politicians faced calls hasfor his resignation after more than 100 people died from drinking bootleg alcohol in the western state of Gujarat.

The victims, mostly from the slums of Ahmedabad, Gujarat's largest city, began dying at the start of the week. The death toll has risen to 107 in Gujarat's worst case of moonshine poisoning in a decade. Last year, nearly 170 people died after drinking toxic liquor in southern India.

The affair has escalated into a political crisis for Narendra Modi, the state's chief minister, whose appeals for calm have failed to quell public anger.

Such is the scale of the tragedy, doctors have been rushed from across the state to Ahmedabad to help treat 150 critically ill patients in three hospitals.

"The [intensive care unit] is full of these patients and there are about 60 outside in various wards," an intern at one hospital told the Times of India newspaper.

Patients were dying as the poison from the toxic alcohol slowly spreads through the nervous system, he said. "The last time the state witnessed a liquor tragedy of this scale was in 1989, when 132 people were killed in a matter of days," he added.

As the death toll rises, so has public anger. Amid accusations that police abetted in bootlegging, hundreds of protesters attacked buses with sticks, threw stones at police and burned effigies of Modi, already a deeply divisive figure because of his hardline Hinduism. Members of a women's rights group raided a bootlegging shop on Thursday, destroyed the alcohol stocks and handed the owner over to police.

"If the police don't take action we will move in," said Meena Patel, a member of the group, known as Sakhi Mandal.

The state parliament has also been in uproar, with opposition members ripping microphones from their desks and hurling them at ruling party MPs.

"The police is hand in glove with the bootleggers and that's how [the illegal business] has proliferated, resulting in this tragedy," said the state opposition leader, Shakti Singh Goel, of Congress.

The party demanded the resignation of Modi and home minister Amit Shah, whose ministry oversees the police.

Modi "has forfeited the right to rule Gujarat in the face of such a massive tragedy", said Siddharth Patel, another Congress leader.

Modi, who earned notoriety in 2002 when he was accused of failing to halt one of India's worst outbreaks of communal violence, has appealed for calm.

"I appeal to the citizens of Ahmedabad for calm and promise to take deterrent action against the guilty," Modi, a member of the Bharatiya Janata party, said.

Under public pressure to crack down on illegal booze, police raided illegal alcohol outlets and rounded up more than 800 alleged bootleggers.

They have also arrested the alleged main supplier of the deadly alcohol.

Authorities have asked a retired judge to investigate the deaths and suspended six police officers for negligence. However, activists accuse officers and politicians of taking bribes and turning a blind eye to the bootlegging.

Selling and consuming alcohol is a criminal offence in Gujarat, the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi and India's only dry state.

In Ahmedabad, Gujarat's biggest city, the rich can avail themselves of alcohol smuggled from neighbouring states. The poor rely on illegal drinking dens selling home-brewed alcohol, often laced with pesticides and chemicals to increase potency


Refusing to use the spellchick!

I have put you on ignore. No really, I have, but you are still ruining my enjoyment of this site. .

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