The victims from Cuttack and Khordha districts fell ill Tuesday after taking the drink that contained drugs used to treat cough and cold and to dress wounds.
Cuttack District Collector S.N. Girish told IANS that among the dead was Baidhar Bhoi, the brew seller. He was the first to die — Tuesday morning.
While 13 deaths were reported till Tuesday, 16 more people died Wednesday. The toll may not rise further as people admitted to the hospitals were recovering, Girish said.
According to officials, people from several areas had gone to Tukuliapada village in Cuttack district, some 25 km from here, to buy the drink Monday night.
Some people also were hospitalised after buying the same medicines from different shops in both the districts.
Police launched a crackdown on chemist shops in different parts of the state to find out if the medicines which allegedly caused the deaths were still available.
Police also raided factories of two pharmaceutical companies in Bhubaneswar and sealed these for allegedly supplying the medicines to the kingpin and to various shops.
Police said 10 people have been arrested. They include three relatives of the kingpin and seven of the pharmaceutical companies. “We are likely to arrest some more people,” Bhubaneswar’s Deputy Commissioner of Police Nitinjit Singh told IANS.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said a judicial commission led by a retired judge of the Odisha High Court will probe the deaths.
Excise Commissioner Sudarsana Nayak said the medicines used in the brew contained a high percentage of alcohol.
Activists of women’s organisations and members of opposition parties blocked roads and staged demonstrations in the affected areas to protest the deaths.