news Monday, December 08, 2014 - 05:30
The News Minute | November 22, 2014 | 06.30 pm IST Social activist and the face behind the Narmadha Bachao Andolan campaign, Medha Patkar has urged the Tamil Nadu government on Saturday to call for total prohibition in the state. For some states in India, alcohol is privately owned, distilled and distributed, in some, private companies and government balance wholesale and retail sales. But in Tamil Nadu , alcohol is synonymous with just one word – TASMAC. For a Tamilian, or anyone residing in Tamil Nadu, the TASMAC or the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation, the government-owned retail liquor monopoly needs no introduction. Sighted as frequently as a city corporation building, the buildings located in every area are characteristically shabby, with grilled counters and hoards of men waiting outside for their chance at buying their share of alcohol.  Patkar’s call for total prohibition in the state is not something entirely new. Previously, minor political parties like the Pattali Makkal Katchi headed by S. Ramadoss and the Kongunadu Jananayaka Katchi called for complete ban. But for Tamil Nadu, the concept has gone full circle with a ban in 1971 which was eventually removed an re-established a number of times in the last half century.  Nobody can predict the future, but a number of reasons will make Tamil Nadu think twice before it considers implementing a complete ban in the state.  Liquor was the single biggest revenue source for the government in 2013, according to Times of India. revenue from liquor sales has shown a steady increase, from Rs 3,639.93 crore in 2003-04, reaching a figure of Rs 18,081.16 crore in the year 2011-12. Tamil Nadu hit another record by being first amongst all states in terms of alcohol sales volume in the country. Growing at a steep incline, revenue from alcohol has increased from Rs. 18,081. 16 crore in 2011-12 to Rs. 21,641.14 crore in 2012-13.  The figures during 2013-14 were even higher at Rs. 21,680.67 crore, according to Financial Express. Far from considering a ban, interestingly, the TASMAC has been taken up as a sort of a role-model for neighbouring Union territory Puducherry whose government has not been doing well financially. AIADMK leader Anbalagan , the opposition in the UT suggested the idea of setting up a corporation similar to the renowned TASMAC to overcome the financial crunch, according to The Hindu. In August, the state Electricity, Prohibition and Excise Minister Natham R. Viswanathan had told the TN assembly that reasons for avoiding a total prohibition on liquor was after considering the impossibility of managing a strict ban while being surrounded by states in which liquor flowed freely, namely Kerala, Andhra and Karnataka. Now, after Kerala’s enforcement of a complete ban on sale and consumption of alchohol, Tamil Nadu will have its own role model to look up to in terms of enforcing bans. On the other hand, considering the strict implementation of the ban in Kerala, Tamil Nadu which is already seeing enough green with money pouring in can expect to see more if Keralites slip across the border for a peaceful sip of the elixir. Dismissing the concept of a total ban, a WHO 2014 report on alcohol and health showed that 50 percent of alcohol consumed in India is not recorded, and part of of non-tax paid activity. It also said that implementing the ban could create risks for consumers, by increasing the black market. In 2014, north-east state, Mizoram gave up its 17-year prohibition on alcohol. Nagaland is considering a similar move, considering the burgeoning black market. Even India’s shining example of prohibition, Gujarat is not without its grey shade. The state might have enforced a complete ban, but the bootlegging advantage has brought more profit to private players. Tamil Nadu is known for its diverse freebie distribution right from TVs, fans to laptops and grinders. Considering the current political instability in Tamil Nadu along with the upcoming elections, the last step the Tamil Nadu government may do will be a complete ban on one of its most sizable sources of income. 

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