When a TASMAC employee in West Mambalam was asked what he will do if they are all shut down, he responded with defeat, "What will I do, I will get back to my village. Rearing goats is profitable I heard, maybe I will do that." He turns to another customer and says, "I wish these elections were not held."
With polls round the corner, TASMAC shops have their shutters down since May 14. The question is, are the shutters going to be down are after May 19, and if yes, where are the workers going to go?
According to DT Next, TASMAC outlets have been instructed to speed up sales, particularly of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) bottles that are expensive. Distilleries had recorded full production level, and exhausting the godowns amped up pressure on workers in the fag-end. Employees in the outlets were under pressure to push up sales and were encouraged to step up the sale of 375 and 750 ml bottles to generate more income and revenue.
Instances of forcible collection of money from sale of each and every bottle emerged. With the lack of a proper rehabilitation roadmap, the future of many TASMAC workers is uncertain after the election. It’s no longer a question of moral ground, jobs are on the line. Is May 16 doomsday for TASMAC employees?
The General secretary of Tamil Nadu’s TASMAC association, Dhanasekharan, is largely in support of prohibition, but his disdain for the measure to gain political mileage is evident.
“Prohibition being a point of focus in election manifestos is giving me a mixed feeling – they have no clear plan. I am in support of the measure as such, but I do not like that this election is being used as way to push for something that requires more consultation or thought. This looks like a cheap grab for votes,” he says.
That aside, the sentiment is driven towards the 28,000 workers currently employed in 6,240 TASMAC outlets, who have mostly benefitted from the pre-poll rush for alcohol. “Some of them fear for their life after the shutters are down on the shops. It’s a little terrifying,” adds Dhanasekharan.
“The rehabilitation is not going to happen immediately for sure. Every aspect of this is going to take time and a massive amount of effort, which I don’t think the parties are able to take seriously,” says the propaganda president of TASMAC workers’ union, Duraimurugan.
“The motive is questionable. I think if the government plans it well, revenue can be earned back. Half of the shops that are in the vicinity of sensitive spots in the city, that have been directed to close by the High Court, can be shut. I am in favour of semi-prohibition. But expecting prohibition to take effect immediately is absurd,” adds Duraimurugan.
Asked if they believed in state models of prohibition as in the case of Kerala, Bihar or Gujarat, a sense of dispassion prevailed. “If you’re simply going to do it for the votes, and not for the people, this is not going to go down well. If you are going to shut down TASMACs, do bother approaching the people who man them day in and day out,” Duraimurugan says.