At least 41 people have died in three districts in Punjab after reportedly drinking spurious liquor over two days, 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, according to a statement by the government. The youngest of the victims was believed to be in his early twenties and the oldest 80 years old. Among the dead was the husband of a woman who has been arrested for selling the suspect liquor.

Punjab director general of police Dinkar Gupta said the first five fatalities were reported from Mucchal and Tangra villages in Amritsar’s Tarsikka on July 29 night.

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.

Later, two more deaths were reported from Mucchal village while another two people died in Batala, also due to the consumption of spurious liquor.

On Friday, five people died in Batala, taking the death toll in the city to seven, the DGP said, adding that four fatalities were reported from Tarn Taran.

Chief minister Amarinder Singh ordered a magisterial inquiry by the divisional commissioner, Jalandhar, into the deaths.

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, the DGP said.

The CM 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.

Gurpreet Singh, 25, of Sach Khand road area in Tarn Taran said, “My father Pyara Singh had gone to drink liquor on Thursday night, but he didn’t return. On Friday morning, we found him lying dead in the ground situated at the Sarhali road. He had drunk illicit liquor due to which he died.”

Talking to HT, Rahul, a resident of Kazimori locality said that on Thursday night around 9pm, his uncle Buta Ram came to the house under the influence of liquor. “When we questioned him, my uncle told us that he had taken liquor from a woman and after drinking that liquor his condition is unstable. Within half an hour, my uncle started vomiting and faded. We rushed him to civil hospital, where he died late night,” he said.

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