TN begins closing liquor shops, but in half-hearted manner

Even as the Tamil Nadu government shut down 500 liquor outlets owned by the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (Tasmac) on Sunday as part of the ruling AIADMK's electoral promise of phased prohibition, it has emerged that only shops without an accompanying bar have got the axe. Also, while many of the shops that were shut down were situated in places that already had another functioning liquor outlet nearby, others were located on the outskirts of cities and district headquarters.

For instance, in Coimbatore city, only one liquor outlet was shut compared to four on the city's outskirts.

Media inquiries revealed that a shop located on the ground floor of a three-storey building, which was closed down did not have a bar or power supply. ''It generated business of just Rs4,000 or less a day,'' said a shop employee. Nine other closed liquor shops are located within a radius of 200 metres from others that are functioning.

There were also joyous celebrations at some places. At Uraiyur in Tiruchi, as staff took away the last case of liquor at outlet number 10299 on Salai Road, local residents and cadres of the Communist Party of India and Communist Party of India (Marxist), who had for long been demanding its closure, performed an 'arathi' in front of the shop to express their relief.

This outlet was a high revenue generating one with a daily turnover of around Rs1 lakh. But barely 500 metres away, another shop at Kura Street witnessed brisk sales of liquor. ''We will get full relief only when the shutters are brought down at this shop too,'' said S Siva, deputy secretary, CPI, Tiruchi district.

In Madurai's labour-intensive Sellur area where a Tasmac shop was closed, two more outlets with bars continued to serve customers on the same 50-feet stretch of road. On Alagarkoil Road too one shop was shut while another is still functioning barely 100 metres away.

''The average sale at the shop closed in Sellur was only around Rs.25,000 a day. The neighbouring shop is generating revenue of over Rs80,000 a day,'' a Tasmac source said.

''Unless the nearby outlets are shut, it won't make a difference for us,'' complained M Saranya, a young mother.

In Kanniyakumari district, where six shops were closed, official sources claimed all were witnessing high sales volume.

Former Dindigul MLA K Balabarathi said closure of 10 shops in the district would have little impact when other outlets functioned.

Meanwhile in Ramanathapuram and Sivaganga, surprisingly, the government ordered the closure of 79 outlets, more than double the number originally identified by the local officials.

Police in Virudhunagar claimed that 10 of the 27 shops that were closed were in response to protests from locals. In Thoothukudi, too, officials claimed that 30 liquor shops that had attracted the ire of the people were shut down.