TASMAC (Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation) is in the thick of things identifying suitable spots for relocating 39 retail IMFS (Indian Made Foreign Spirit) vending outlets that now exist along the national and state highways in the limits of Tiruchi district.

Days after the March 31 deadline set by the Madras High Court for shifting the outlets, the TASMAC authorities opine that the time given was not adequate for complying with the order. The Madras High Court, acting on a Public Interest Litigation seeking strict implementations of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, even refused to grant extension to the March 31 deadline for shifting of the outlets along the national highways. The purpose was to bring down the number of fatal accidents on national highways due to drunken driving.

But, official sources say that finding ideal alternative locations has been an ordeal for the authorities in the last couple of weeks. The primary difficulty for the TASMAC authorities, an official said, was the reluctance of private building owners to let their premises on rent for housing the retail vending outlets attached with bars.

As per the rule, every shop should be housed in a pucca building at a location approved by the District Collector and no part of the shop shall be thatched either on the sides or on the roof. The same condition applies to the bar that is permitted within the shop or adjoining it with a minimum plinth area of 10 metres.

There have been past instances of relocation of IMFS outlets on representation from people’s representatives, public, local associations, residents, and media reports, according to the policy note 2012-13 of the Home, Prohibition and Excise department.

In the last two weeks, there have been a series of protests by residents opposing the shifting of IMFS outlets to shops located amidst residences.

Rivalry that would have existed among the bidders to run the bars is cited by officials to be the main reason for the difficulty in finalising locations. Those who had lost in the bidding were inciting locals to protest, a senior official contended. Nevertheless, there is also an apprehension among the authorities that newly identified locations in residential localities will be rendered null and void in the eyes of law Under Rule 8 of the Tamil Nadu Liquor Retail Vending (in Shops and Bars) Rules, 2003.

Under the Rule, no shop shall be established in municipal corporations and municipalities within a distance of 50 metres and in other areas within 100 metres from any place of worship or educational institutions.

The distance restriction, however, does not apply in areas designated as ‘commercial’ or ‘industrial’ by development or town planning authorities.

Official sources said while TASMAC authorities were keen to get the shops shifted at the earliest, they are not yet in a position to fix their own deadline for responding completely to the High Court order.