Facing flak, Tamil Nadu defers opening of state-run liquor stores in Chennai; stores open in other districts from May 7

Written By: Sidharth MP WION Web Team
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India Updated: May 05, 2020, 02:11 PM(IST)

A Chennai liquor shop. Photograph:( WION )

Story highlights

The Tamil Nadu governments decision to open liquor shops at a time when the state was seeing a nearly three-fold rise in daily Covid-19 cases drew a lot of flak.

State-run TASMAC (Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation) liquor outlets falling under Chennai-city Police limits will not open on May 7th and has been deferred until further notice, read a statement from the Tamil Nadu Government. 

On Monday, when the state witnessed its highest-ever surge in coronavirus cases, the Government announced its decision to open state-run liquor outlets (does not include bars) across the state starting May 7th. Ironically, the state had seen 527 new Covid-19 cases on Monday, of which 266 cases were in the capital city Chennai alone. The announcement to open liquor outlets came in the evening, long after the videos of serpentine queues outside liquor shops in other states went viral. 

The State government had mentioned that the decision to open liquor stores was taken after noting that people living in the border areas were travelling in large numbers to neighbouring states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, where liquor stores have already opened. 

The announcement to open liquor stores also came with guidelines on a 6-feet distance between customers, a limit on 5 customers at a time, and that shops can deploy more workforce to avoid crowding. Going by the crowds witnessed in other states across India, it is needless to talk about how well these rules can be implemented.

The Tamil Nadu governments decision to open liquor shops at a time when the state was seeing a nearly three-fold rise in daily Covid-19 cases drew a lot of flak. Leaders from across the spectrum lashed out at the government. Tamil Nadu has recorded a total of 3550 Covid-19 cases, of which 2107 are active cases. 1438 of the active cases are in the state's capital city Chennai, which has a high population density.  

“Doesn’t the government realize that it’s every mistake is taking away lives. After failing to protect the Koyambedu market the government wants to open liquor shops” Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan tweeted. 

On the decision to not open shops within Chennai Police limits alone, Political analyst and senior journalist Dr Sumanth C Raman told WION, “it makes no sense, as people can always go to the nearby districts and buy liquor. This would mean that people travel long distances and that crowding would be much more in stores that are open. People would also buy in bulk from elsewhere and start selling it in black in Chennai”.

However, Dr Raman also added that “Liquor brings in about 90crores per day in Tamil Nadu and its been shut during the lockdown. The state government has no money, and are left with no option. They haven’t received the GST dues from the Central Government, so can the state do away with welfare schemes or hike prices of milk and bus fares and electricity rates? The opposition will lash out at the ruling party for opening liquor shops, but they don’t offer solutions either. Can opposition parties close down the breweries owned by their leaders ?” 

While Tamil Nadu has deferred the opening of liquor shops within Chennai City Police limits, the state-run TASMAC outlets will remain open in other parts of the state. It remains to be seen if Tamil Nadu would also hike the price of liquor by including an additional cess in the liquor prices. So far, Delhi has announced a 70% increase in prices of liquor, due to a new ‘Corona tax’. It remains to be seen if Tamil Nadu and other states where liquor sales are permitted will follow suit.

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