Six weeks after their shutters were closed as part of the COVID-19 lockdown, Tamil Nadu's liquor shops re-opened to massive crowds and sales on Thursday. Reports state that in a single day, 20 lakh litres of alcohol worth Rs 170 crore was sold by the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC).
According to The Hindu, these sales come from just 3,700 of the 5,300 outlets which were opened in the state. If Chennai and its neighbouring districts open TASMAC shops, the sale is expected to cross over Rs 200 crore.
And while this additional revenue for the government could spell good news, visuals from outside the liquor outlets showed that all forms of physical distancing were forgotten in the desperation to buy alcohol.
Hundreds of people queued up at every TASMAC outlet across Tamil Nadu on Thursday as the state government and the Madras High Court allowed the functioning of TASMAC shops in all districts except Chennai. While police officials strived to maintain physical distancing norms among buyers, many flouted the norms and rushed to get their hands on the liquor bottles.
#Thread: Scenes from different parts of Tamil Nadu on day 1 of opening liquor shops in the state.â€” Shabbir Ahmed (@Ahmedshabbir20) May 7, 2020
Despite Sec 144 being in place, the govt has allowed so many people to gather outside wine shops. This is in #Salem, home town of TN CM EPS. #DontOpenTASMAC pic.twitter.com/GWlhQpXo1F
On Thursday, the Madras High Court permitted the opening of TASMAC shops with certain conditions. As per the order, TASMAC was allowed to provide one bottle (750 ml each) to a person who pays at the counter and two bottles (750 ml each) for people who pay using online payment options. Tokens were issued to the people standing in the queues and police officials were guiding them through announcements. Here are updates from various districts:
In Sholavaram of Thiruvallur district, people broke barricades to enter the queue of more than 500 people.
Tipplers lined up near a TASMAC liquor shop at Kadambathur in Tiruvallur district on Thursday. Video : B.Jothi Ramalingam / The Hindu.â€” D Suresh Kumar (@dsureshkumar) May 7, 2020
[Where is the six feet physical distancing? Some of them are not wearing mask or have not covered their nostrils. Emerging cluster?]#Corona pic.twitter.com/7dEcrG0s87
In Coimbatore, more than 100 people followed physical distancing norms and bought liquor despite heavy rains.
In Thondamuthur of Coimbatore, a TASMAC shop was closed following protests held by 30 women. The protesters gathered at the TASMAC shops flouting Section 144 and shouted slogans to close the shop. The Revenue District Officer and Block District Officer rushed to place and pacified the women. The officials assured that the TASMAC shop would be closed, following which the protesters dispersed.
â€śThe sales at TASMAC shops near the districts bordering Chennai were very high. In Seethancheri TASMAC of Thiruvallur limit, all the bottles got sold. As per information, shops in Tiruvannamalai district saw an average footfall and there were also shops with no customers at all,â€ť said a TASMAC employee.
â€śFor the customers, we provided one full bottle or 4 quarter bottles of liquor, as per the High Court order. Physical distancing norms were followed and police ensured people took precautionary measures,â€ť said the employee.
In most places, people flouted the guidelines issued by the Tamil Nadu government on age-based slots for purchasing liquor at the TASMAC outlets. According to the guidelines issued by the state government, buyers above 50 years of age were permitted to buy liquor from 10 am to 1 pm; for customers between 40 and 50 years the alcohol purchase slot was between 1 pm and 3 pm; and for buyers below 40 years of, alcohol should have been sold from 3 pm to 5 pm.