The State government is not opposed in principle to implementing total prohibition, but the move would pave the way for bootleggers to smuggle liquor from neighbouring States into Tamil Nadu, Minister for Prohibition and Excise Natham R. Viswanathan told the Assembly on Tuesday.
Responding to a question posed by Manithaneya Makkal Katchi MLA M.H. Jawahirullah, the Minister said clamping total prohibition would make Tamil Nadu a fertile ground for brewing illicit arrack and smuggling liquor from other States. He wanted to know whether the Chief Minister, who banned usury, lottery and pan masala, would consider imposing dry law in the State.
“The Chief Minister is fully aware of the evils of liquor consumption. She has no objection to implementing total prohibition. But that will only benefit the neighbouring States…despite strict vigil by police, bootleggers are managing to smuggle in liquor. If there is a dry law, we will only be boosting the revenue of other States,” he said.
Mr. Viswanathan said the government was creating awareness of the dangers of consuming liquor.
“Instead of seeking total prohibition, I suggest that you join us in sensitizing the people on the evils of liquor consumption. If the Centre enforces total prohibition across the country, we will welcome the initiative and enforce the rule.”
Replying to another query, Mr. Viswanathan said no target was set for salespersons at liquor outlets owned by the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC).
“Whenever the employees indulge in any offence or irregularity, we take disciplinary action. They are misleading trade unions by saying that the action was taken for not achieving sales target…there is no such target. TASMAC implements a number of welfare schemes for its employees, including 20 per cent bonus,” he said.
Going by the policy note of the Home, Prohibition and Excise Department, the revenue earned by the State government on account of liquor sales through 6,835 retail shops and 4,631 bars increased from Rs. 18,081.16 crore in 2011-12 to Rs. 21,680.67 crore in 2012-13. The number of dry days was enhanced from five to eight days with effect from January 3, 2012. Firm action was being taken against bootleggers, smugglers and financiers involved in the brewing of illicit liquor. In 2012-13, as many as 1,782 motor vehicles involved in prohibition offences were seized and 216 habitual offenders detained under the Bootleggers Act.