It is an all-out battle between residents and a TASMAC outlet in Kovai district.
Taking the cue from its Kerala counterpart, the liquor shop in Malumichampati attempted to set up a temporary maze-like structure to subvert the Supreme Court order against liquor stores near highways.
But residents who were against the reopening of the TASMAC, found a way to stop tipplers from even accessing the shop with some creative digging of their own.
Recently, the Supreme Court ordered closure of liquor shops and bars within 500 metres of national/state highways, following a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by the NGO Arrive Safe. The NGO had said that a majority of the 1.42 lakh deaths due to road accidents in the country annually was due to drinking and driving.
Following this, several bars and even five-star hotels in urban locations had to stop serving liquor, because some of the arterial roads in cities, like Mount Road in Chennai, are also notified as state highways.
Last week, a bar in Kerala chose to build a 250-300 metre path from the road to the building, rather than shutting shop. Clearly taking a leaf out of this attempt, the TASMAC in Malumichampati which is only 200 metres from the Kovai-Pollachi National highway, set about creating a pathway to the shop.
The efforts aimed at keeping outlet open were, however, foiled by local residents who began digging a deep trench around the perimeter of the outlet, making it impossible for tipplers to even enter the maze.
Among the many grouses these residents have against the TASMAC, one of the worst is that it allegedly built its maze on someone else’s private property.
"They built this maze about four days back on my land," says 60-year-old Lakshmamnan. "It was like the pathways you see in temples to get a glimpse of God. It is ridiculous. When we complained to the Senior Regional Manager of TASMAC here, he came and inspected it, but did nothing. So, we took matters into our own hands and dug up this trench. Nobody can enter it now," he says matter-of-factly.
According to Lakshmanan, a resident of Malumichampati, several complaints had already been made regarding the location of the liquor outlet ahead of the SC ban.
"It is located just 200 metres from a higher secondary school with young girls. These drunk men would go break bottles in front of the school and create a scene. When we told this to the TASMAC official, he said the outlet won't open on the side of the school. We then asked where the entrance will be but he told us it is none of our business," says Lakshmanan.
Enraged by this response, residents pooled in their own money to dig up the trench, sending out a clear warning to anyone in search alcohol in the vicinity.