TNM Exclusive: TN's prohibition plan a complete farce, Tasmac liquor sales have gone up

TASMAC outlets that were earlier making Rs.2 lakh a month, now make Rs.10 lakh after closure of 1000 shops.
TNM Exclusive: TN's prohibition plan a complete farce, Tasmac liquor sales have gone up
TNM Exclusive: TN's prohibition plan a complete farce, Tasmac liquor sales have gone up

“If I am re-elected then I will prohibit alcohol in a phased manner."

This startling declaration by former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on a hot April afternoon before Tamil Nadu's 16th Assembly election set the ball of 'prohibition' rolling in the state.

A promise made under pressure, and was viewed by critics with skepticism as liquour sales fetched Rs.30,000 crore every year, revenue that the state could not afford to lose.  

In a grand political gesture, on May 24 2016, days after she came to power, Jayalalithaa reduced the timing of liquor shops by two hours and 500 TASMAC shops were shut down in the state.

Even after her death, the 'Phased Prohibition' process did not stop. When the current Chief Minister, Edappadi Palaniswami came to power in February, he announced that another 500 TASMAC shops will be shut.

With 1000 outlets now completely shut, the state was expected to lose at least Rs.60 crore every year and the number of TASMAC shops was supposed to come down to 5,700. However, liquor sales in Tamil Nadu have defied all logic.

According to data released by the Minister for Electricity,Prohibition and Excise revenue- liquor sales till May this fiscal year has surpassed the previous annum by a whopping Rs.1,149 crore. While the total revenue from sale of liquor came up to Rs.25,845 crore between 2015 and 2016, the succeeding year has seen revenue rise up to Rs.26,995 crore (till May).

This surge in profits, comes despite 3,321 outlets being shut down following a Supreme Court order directing the closure of liquour shops on highways.  

When the The News Minute contacted the TASMAC Employees Association General Secretary, "Yes, sales have all gone up," was the abrupt reply we received.

Critics however, claim they saw this coming. "Prohibition in Tamil Nadu is a complete farce," says former bureaucrat Devasahayam. "The Government cannot afford to lose this revenue because their bill for freebies alone comes upto Rs.23,000 crore. Politcal parties are hand in glove with these TASMAC outlets that sell alcohol in black," he adds.

Sure enough, when The News Minute Team visited TASMAC outlets across Chennai, several of them reported that sales had gone up. On Nungambakkam High Road, we met Vijay in one such outlet covered on the outside with blue asbestos sheets. He was manning the counter, guarded by metal grills.

He proudly displayed the variety of alcohol, the shop possessed before saying, "You take my number, whenever you need delivery you call me." His delivery time extends up to 11.30 pm, far beyond the 10 pm that the Government has ordered that they shut shop. "You can WhatsApp me," Vijay offers generously.

At the heart of the city, near Valluvar Kottam, a more spacious liquor outlet was the next shop we visited. The man at the counter admitted that customers who visited shops that are now closed, have started coming to him. "But a lot of people go to the elite TASMAC," he laments. "But we are getting more people. We can keep ordering more liquor and we are supplied accordingly," he adds.

The extra supply of alcohol to these outlets has not only bridged the gap in revenue that the Government faces but also rendered the 'phase-by-phase prohibition' process completely toothless.

"Shops that used to make only Rs.2,00,000 a month now make Rs.10,00,000," says John, the Coimbatore District Employees Association Secretary. "If there were four people manning a shop before, now there are ten more who have come from closed outlets. The manpower and revenue has increased," he adds.

With these revelations by the revenue ministry and employees of TASMAC outlets, the picture is stark and clear. While women take to the roads, turn violent and even burn liquor outlets to end alcoholism, for the Tamil Nadu Government - it it is business as usual. 

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