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NEW DELHI — Indian police said Friday that at least 21 people have died in a northern state over the past three days after drinking tainted alcohol.

The police chief for Punjab state, Dinkar Gupta, said the first five deaths were reported on Wednesday night in two villages in Amritsar district. Over the past two days another 16 deaths were reported in Amritsar as well as two other districts, he said.

A state government statement said the deaths were due to “spurious” liquor and a crackdown on illegal alcohol manufacturing in the state was ordered.

Deaths from illegally brewed alcohol are common in India, where the poor cannot afford licensed brands from government-run shops. Illicit liquor is cheap and often spiked with methanol to increase potency.

Punjab state's top elected official, Amarinder Singh, tweeted that he ordered a magisterial inquiry into the deaths.

In 2019, at least 133 people died after drinking tainted liquor in two separate incidents in India’s northeast Assam state. The victims were mostly tea plantation workers.

Also in 2019, another 80 people died from tainted liquor in northern Uttar Pradesh state.