IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


24th June, 2024 Science and Technology


Source: IndiaTV

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  • Incident: In the Kallakurichi district of Tamil Nadu, an illicit liquor tragedy resulted in over 50 deaths due to methanol poisoning.
  • Scale: The widespread contamination and significant number of fatalities suggest methanol was procured and added deliberately rather than being a byproduct of distillation


Not the First Time

  • Recurring Tragedies: Methanol poisoning incidents have occurred periodically across India, with notable cases like the 2015 Malvani tragedy in Mumbai where over 100 people died.
  • Legal and Regulatory Failures: Despite existing regulations, enforcement lapses and illegal pilferage of methanol continue to enable such incidents.

How is Methanol Procured?

  • Production: Methanol is produced industrially from coal and other fossil fuels. In India, methanol production primarily involves gasification of coal, followed by catalytic reactions that convert the resultant gases into methanol.
  • Regulation: Methanol is a highly controlled substance due to its toxicity. Manufacturing, transportation, and storage of methanol require licenses, and quantities are monitored and audited.
  • Sources: Methanol used in industries in Tamil Nadu is often sourced from neighboring states like Andhra Pradesh. The transportation route from Andhra Pradesh to Tamil Nadu is susceptible to pilferage, leading to methanol being diverted for illegal use.

Usage of Methanol as Liquor

  • Illicit Distillation: Bootleggers sometimes produce liquor using crude distillation processes, which may result in the presence of methanol if not properly removed.
  • Dilution: Methanol is occasionally added to illicit liquor due to its lower cost and potency. This practice is based on the mistaken belief that diluting methanol can produce the same intoxicating effects as ethanol.
  • Contamination: Methanol contamination in illicit liquor can occur either accidentally during the distillation process or deliberately to increase the potency of the brew.

Addressing Methanol Poisoning

Regulatory Measures

  • Central and State Legislation: Strengthening both central and state regulations to control methanol production, distribution, and use.
  • Poisons Act: Enhancing the implementation of the Poisons Act, 1919, and ensuring strict penalties for violations.

Preventive Actions

  • Tightening Supply Chains: Ensuring robust monitoring of methanol supply chains to prevent pilferage and illegal diversion.
  • Education and Awareness: Educating communities about the dangers of methanol consumption and promoting safe drinking practices.
  • Alternative Solutions: Providing safe and affordable legal alternatives to illicit liquor to reduce the demand for dangerous homemade brews.

Technical Measures

  • Detection and Removal: Improving distillation techniques and implementing stringent controls to detect and remove methanol during the production of ethanol.
  • Monitoring and Auditing: Enhancing the capabilities of regulatory bodies to monitor methanol and ethanol production facilities, ensuring compliance with safety standards.

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Q. Methanol poisoning from illicit liquor is a recurring issue in India, driven by economic incentives and regulatory failures. Addressing this problem requires a multifaceted approach. Comment. (15 marks)