Take a handful of rotten fruit. Mix in bark from a nearby tree, some coarse brown sugar, chicken droppings and old shoes to speed up the fermentation process. Boil it up and add methyl alcohol for extra kick.

That, according to United News of India, is the tried and true recipe for "black lightning," a locally made moonshine similar to the kind of bootleg liquor that killed at least 345 persons in the southern Indian cities of Bangalore and Mysore earlier this month.

It costs about 25 cents a bottle -- about one-fourth the price of the cheapest legal liquor.

The high cost of legal liquor, mainly caused by the strong streak of prohibitionsim in a country that encourages state and federal governments to levy high taxes on alcoholic beverages, makes bootlegging a flourishing trade in India.

In New Delhi alone, for instance, newspapers estimate more than 5,000 gallons of bootleg booze are sold each day -- most of it to poor laborers who cannot afford the cost of legal drinks.

A bottle of moonshine here costs $2, about one-third the price of the least expensive legal liquors sold here.

But more important for the laborer whose daily wage is about $1, moonshine can be bought by the glass. In Bangalore, for instance, a glass of the killer "black lightning" costs about six cents and a bottle can be purchased for about 25 cents.

Moreover, according to the United News of India, the home distilled liquor gives a bigger kick than legal drinks, which are weaker than comparable drinks in the United States.

The illegal liquor trade in Bangalore was given a big boost this year when the price of the most common type of Indian-made liquor sold in the legal shops was doubled to almost $1 a bottle.

As a result, according to reports from Bangalore, bootlegging has become such a big business that at least 10,000 persons distribute the illegal liquor to 500 shops.

There are three times as many illegal liquor shops as there are licensed bars and the daily take of the bootleggers is reported to be more than a quarter of a million dollars.

While these reports may be exaggerated, they illustrate the magnitude of the illegal liquor operations in this country where, as in the United States during prohibition, bootlegging appears to be intimately connected with politics and police.

A 40-year-old man known as "the hooch king" of Bangalore, Amir Sultan, was reported to have fled the city after being warned that police were after him. He has since been arrested in Madras.

While bootleg liquor deaths occur throughout the world, the problem in India appears to be compounded by a national ambivalence toward the consumption of alcohol.

Total prohibition is a stated aim of India's constitution, and former prime minister Morarji Desai, a dedicated opponent of drinking, tried during his more than two years in office to drag the country kicking and screaming toward that goal.

By all accounts, he failed.

For one thing, the states lost hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues on liquor.For another, moonshine, which kills thousands of Indians and blinds thousands more each year, flourished.

When Indira Gandhi returned to office 18 months ago, the national drive toward prohibition ended. While Gandhi said she believes should not drink, she said she doubted whether a government ban would stop them.

As it stands now, India has a crazy-quilt series of laws governing the serving of alcoholic beverages. In the capital city of New Delhi, for instance, only foreigners are allowed to drink in public. Indian guests in the major hotels -- the only ones allowed to serve liquor -- either sip surreptitously or not at all.

A Chinese restaurant offers "cold tea" -- really beer served in a tea pot -- to known customers.

In Bombay, Indians need a permit to buy alcoholic beverages and in Medras a doctor must certify a person as an alcoholic for a permit.

Perhaps the biggest casualties of Desai's attempt to bring prohibition to India are the once flourishing private clubs of New Delhi, which still remain dry by government fiat.

The once crowded taproom of the Gymkhanna club, where the leading lights of Delhi's professional, political and military world used to gather around the long brass bar, now stands empty. Its staff of liveried barmen remains on the payroll, but all they can serve is soft drinks and fresh lime sodas.