Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state president K Annamalai spoke to journalists about the need to close down most of the liquor shops under the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC), the increasing rate of alcohol addiction in the state and the issue of illicit liquor after a protest against the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government for its failure to curb spurious liquor and prevent the recent hooch tragedies in Villupuram and Chengalpattu.
On Why Does The Government Not Want To Close Down TASMAC Shops
"The DMK government is unable to close down TASMAC shops because most of the distilleries from which the supply comes are owned by party leaders.
"There is a head turning amount of income, you are only seeing the income of the government, i.e., Rs 44000 crore.
"But each of these distilleries are making a lot of profit, which the DMK leaders are gaining from, so they don’t want to close TASMAC shops."
What The DMK Said While In Opposition
"But when they were in opposition, the DMK said we’ll close TASMAC shops, we’ll bring in prohibition, we’ll get rid of illicit liquor."
Is It Possible To Close Down TASMAC Shops?
"I ask the DMK government to check with the economic advisory council that has noble laureates, definitely you can bring down the number of shops. I will present a whitepaper with a roadmap to close down most of the shops. You can examine it for its value and logic."
A journalist then asked Annamalai, whether the DMK government would accept the whitepaper, to which he replied-
"Whether they accept or not is not the matter but it will become a matter of debate among the public
"People want these liquor shops to be closed but government says how will we replace the revenue foregone, so people are stuck in between
"We are not saying full closure but heavy regulation. 5400 tasmac shops are there, in 3 years you can close down 80 per cent. In other states, liquor shops are heavily regulated and controlled unlike Tamil Nadu where these shops are being opened in every other street."
To A Question From A Journalist On Whether There Are No Liquor Shops In BJP Ruled States
"You know how is it in Gujarat, where Gandhi was born, where the BJP has been ruling for long etc you know our stance there.
"In Karnataka, liquor is not sold by the government but by private players who do not have any pressure to meet targets.
"Here, TASMAC stores have been given targets and they are punished if they do not meet targets. Government puts pressure on Collectors, Collectors put pressure on the stores. Please ask the Tamil Nadu government whether they punish stores that do not meet their targets. I am sure that such stores are punished."
Highest Addiction Among States
"There are responsible drinkers. We cannot stop them. They are allowed to drink by law after a certain age."
"But there is an addiction rate of nine per cent, which is one of the highest amongst the states. This means there are many who are not responsible drinkers.
"By the time a person with Rs 450 in his pocket reaches home, he would have crossed four TASMAC shops, such is the situation that has been created."
Very High Increase In TASMAC earnings
"In one year, i.e., from 2021-22 to 2022-23, earnings have increased by 22 per cent. In any other state you would find two, three or four per cent growth.
"Which means that there is targeted marketing.
"By the time you close and open your eyes, the parliament and state assembly elections are due. By then they will take it to Rs 60000 crore."
Why Are People Drinking Illicit Liquor
"The addiction rate is very high. The suppliers of illicit liquor are providing at Rs 20-25 what could cost you a couple hundred in TASMAC shops. The liquor addicts cannot keep paying the price charged in the shops and so they move towards illicit liquor.
"Today the government says if we close down TASMAC shops, then illegal liquor will increase, that is not an argument at all."
Whether You Should Close The Liquor Shops Or Make Them Private
"We should make them private with heavy regulation. 80 per cent shops can be closed down without any problem.
"Responsible drinkers will have an option but this scale is unsustainable."
How Will You Bring About A Society Free Of Liquor Addicts If You Don't Close Down TASMAC Shops
"Now addiction is 9 per cent, few years ago it was five per cent, in next few years it will be 15 per cent.
"This is a problem for society, in this state we keep speaking of social justice.
"That income will not go to the family, not go to girls education, women's security and instead it is going to TASMAC.
"It damages family environment, society etc.
"Today you wont’ know because we are in the middle of the problem but twenty years later when you come out of the problem and see, you'll understand how big a problem TASMAC was."
Is Hundred Percent Prohibition Possible?
"Hundred percent prohibition is not possible. We are not a dictatorship like North Korea, where we could say we'll shoot you if you hold a wine bottle.
"Gujarat also has liquor permit. It is not hundred per cent prohibition like many people believe.
"In Tamil Nadu, first you have to stop the expansion of TASMAC. From 5400 shops we have to bring it to less than 1000 with heavy regulation.
"What is happening now is TASMAC expansion with deluxe outlets, elite outlets, outlets in malls and vending machines being set up.
"The expansion has led to many court cases. There are so many disputes in court about the 100 metre distance between TASMAC shops and schools or temples not being maintained. There are disputes regarding the spot from which the distance should be measured, i.e., from the compound or from the entrance door."
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