Mangal Singh, Balwinder Singh, Dalbir Singh, Gurpreet Singh, Kashmir Singh, Kaka Singh, Kirpal Singh, Jaswant Singh and Joga Singh of Muchhal village; Baldev Singh of Tangra village; Buta Ram, Bhinda, Riku Singh, Kala, Kalu, Billa and Jatinder of Batala; and Sahib Singh, Harbans Singh, Sukhdev Singh and Dharam Singh of Tarn Taran were all alive and well in July and have now been done to death in Punjab. We have a Singh working at The Institute and so I assumed he was Sikh but he told me that, while all Sikh men are Singhs [Lions, indeed], not all Singhs are Sikhs. These men certainly shouldn't be Sikhs, because they were among 100 poor people who died after consuming poitín / hooch / illegal booze.
This story was picked up by RTE because there had only been one Irish murder over the weekend and 100 Indians are equivalent to 1 Irish in the grisly accounting of the newsroom. As you do, I Googled for more information: "Tarn Taran Punjab methanol" and found that it was s slow-news day across the world. But not so s l o w that the stringers could actually write their own copy:
with bootleggers often found adding methanol . . . in their brews to increase its strength. RTE
Illicit liquor is cheap and often spiked with methanol to increase potency Irish Times
Illicit liquor is cheap and often spiked with methanol to increase potency WaPo
Illicit liquor is cheap and often spiked with methanol to increase potency NYT
(13 US cents) a litre, is often spiked with methanol to increase potency AlJaz
Illicit liquor is cheap and often spiked with methanol to increase potency. ABCnews
Bootleg liquor is cheap and often spiked with methanol to increase its potency. Euronews
Illicit liquor is cheap and often spiked with methanol to increase potency. Reactograph
Such lazy-arsed plagiarism would have the epaulettes ripped off any of our students before we drummed them out the door without a certificate.
It's annoying also because it is wrong. Nobody is going to add CH3OH methanol to a commercial product to increase potency because it doesn't work like that.
a) Methanol is more expensive to produce than its bigger C2H5OH sister ethanol. It used to be made by destructive distillation of wood - hence one of its alternate names wood-alcohol. That's really inefficient and modern manufacture involves forcing gaseous hydrogen H2 and carbon monoxide CO together in a closed vessel with a catalyst. It's difficult to do that in a garden shed. Regular ethanol alcohol just requires sugar (or molasses, bananas, malt, corn, rice) and yeast if you want it at less than 10%. Distillation is needed to bring the concentration up to 'spirit' levels.
b) Methanol is liable to kill the customers, or do terminal damage to their eyes, liver and kidneys. Which is not good commercial practice unless your cousin runs the local undertaking business.
I've written about methanol in moonshine before. It's an inevitable constituent of any fermented brew but at such low concentrations that it wouldn't harm a fly. Problems arise because the concentration will rise if you distill the 'mash': methanol boils at a lower temperature 65°C than ethanol 87°C. This is why the first 'shots' of the distillate are discarded . . . and why the process is stopped after the temperature starts to rise above 78°C. Greedy producers will discard less, or none, of the foreshots and if these are bottled directly, rather than mixed into (and diluted by) by the whole run, they are liable kill or blind the consumers.
In the Punjab poisonings, it looks like the distributors had been using "denatured" alcohol which is 95% ethanol to which 5% methanol has been deliberately added to make the stuff unfit for human consumption. Acetone, pyridine, methyl-ethyl-ketone and other foul smelling adulterants are often added to discourage anyone from drinking the stuff. In Ireland it is also coloured purple with an aniline dye like methyl violet to prevent anyone mistaking it for ethanol . . . unless they are already blind, I guess.