A beeline for the bottle on Day One

Two Spain nationals who stay in a hotel in Coimbatore were the first to grab bottles of liquor from a Tasmac on Siddhapudur Road on Thursday.

Two Spain nationals who stay in a hotel in Coimbatore were the first to grab bottles of liquor from a Tasmac on Siddhapudur Road on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: M_PERIASAMY

Serpentine queues marked the reopening on Thursday of liquor vending outlets of the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (Tasmac), after these remained shut for over 40 days owing to the lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19. While most of the outlets across the western region opened, those in the containment zones remained shut.

The queues extended well beyond the barricades put up in front of the outlets. Umbrellas and footwear served to book spots in the queues that formed well before the scheduled opening of the shops at 10 a.m.

In Coimbatore, Tasmac officials said 206 out of 295 liquor outlets functioned in Coimbatore district on Thursday. The rest 89 remained closed as they fell in the COVID-19 containment zones. The elite air-conditioned outlets also did not function. No untoward incident was reported till the close of sale at 5 p.m., the officials said.

Spaniards, the early birds

Two Spain nationals were the first to buy liquor bottles at a Tasmac outlet on Siddhapudur Road in Coimbatore city, when it reopened on Thursday morning. The duo stood in the queue from 9.15 a.m., and left the counter with four bottles of liquor.

They went to the Tasmac outlet as the hotel they stayed in Coimbatore did not serve liquor owing to lockdown restrictions. Two other Spain nationals, staying in the same hotel, also joined the queue for their quota of spirits. The lockdown had forced the four to stay on in Coimbatore.

Though Tasmac officials initially mandated that Aadhaar must be produced to buy liquor, this was given up later owing to heavy rush. Wearing of mask was made mandatory to line up at the outlets.

In Tiruppur, the re-opening of the outlets was largely incident-free. Out of the 238 outlets in the district, 217 were opened, a senior Tasmac official said. Some shops identified as potential overcrowding points were not opened.

Umbrellas were used to reserve spots in the queue much before the shops opened. On Tuesday, Tiruppur Collector K. Vijayakarthikeyan announced that customers must use umbrellas to ensure physical distancing in the queues.

Many roadside shops in Tiruppur city sold umbrellas and masks since Wednesday near the Tasmac outlets. According to local sources, umbrellas that were usually priced at ₹100 were allegedly sold for ₹180.

A senior officer with the Tiruppur City Police said nearly 950 police personnel were deployed across the city.

Another officer with Tiruppur District Police said that the police were deployed at every outlet based on the crowd expected.

Three arrested

Tiruppur North police arrested three persons on charges of bursting crackers and distributing cakes near Tasmac outlet no. 1953 in M.S. Nagar on Thursday. S. Chellavelu (55), T. Arun (29) and S. Saravanan (29) allegedly burst crackers during a birthday celebration, police said. They were booked under Sections 285 (Negligent conduct with respect to fire or combustible matter), 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) and 269 (Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) of the Indian Penal Code and remanded in judicial custody.

In Salem, 163 out of 216 outlets reopened, with police, home guards and volunteers managing the crowd. The outlets in the containment zones remained closed. As many as 600 police personnel were deployed across 153 outlets that functioned in Namakkal District.

In Salem, each customer was given only up to 750 ml of liquor of any variety and the Aadhar details were collected to ensure that liquor was sold to only persons within the district.

Hand washing facilities were arranged at many places and some customers even held umbrellas to ensure physical distancing. But, the distancing norms went for a toss at many places though the staff at the shops kept insisting on it through the public address system.

Near the new bus stand in Salem, one-way traffic had to be followed owing the crowd at two Tasmac outlets located close to each other. To control the crowd, tokens were distributed at a government school near Kandhampatti. But, this was shelved as the local people protested.

In Namakkal, there was no rush at the outlets as the district administration had not suspended the colour-coded card system for people to venture out on particular days. District Collector K. Megraj visited outlets on Salem Road here and reviewed arrangements.

In Erode, the scorching sun did not deter the forming of long queues from 8 a.m. at the Tasmac outlets. Of the 203 shops in the district, 143 reopened. Those in the containment zones and near bus stand and railway station remained shut.

Disinfectant was sprayed around the shops and hand sanitisers were given to all the customers, after which they were allowed to purchase liquor.

A minimum of five policemen were posted at each Tasmac shops in Erode city, and no untoward incident was reported at any of the shops.

Erode Collector C. Kathiravan said customers must wait in the queue under their umbrellas to ensure physical distancing from Friday.

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Printable version | Aug 15, 2020 8:32:47 AM |

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