‘We give consumers what they ask for’

Schoolchildren walking past a toddy shop in a residential colony at Moti market in Esamia Bazaar.

Schoolchildren walking past a toddy shop in a residential colony at Moti market in Esamia Bazaar.  

What’s wrong in adulteration when govt. itself sells cheap liquor, asks Narsa Gowd

There have been 103 toddy shops in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation limits since 2015 when the TRS government revived them to keep its promise made during elections a year ago. The number of shops were the same when the ban came into force in 2005.

The government also lifted all the taxes on the shops, making its revenue from the trade zero in the last four years. Otherwise, toddy tapping contributed ₹60 crore to ₹70 crore per annum to the government in the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh.

The toddy shops are owned by cooperative societies with the president as the licensee and vice-president, secretary and cashier as the other office-bearers. They have a large number of members, who include tappers, sellers, helpers, transporters, drivers and sweepers. Artisans like potters, blacksmiths and those who weave baskets with the leaves of palm and date trees that produce the toddy are also the members, though they are confined to villages from where the drink is procured for supply in Hyderabad. The elections to societies are held once in three years with the members electing new presidents every time. From a five-year license to societies to run the business previously, the TRS government extended the period to ten years after it came to power.

All the members are entitled to the allotment of thirty trees each and the total yield from the trees is pooled for supply to the shops on a daily basis.

The societies pay a rental of ₹50 per tree per annum to the tree owners in villages. The supplies are filled in wooden tubs and then bottled in depots attached to the shops. All those filling the toddy in bottles and arranging them in crates also became members of the societies. So, the number of members goes up to 500 at some shops.

It is at the point of sale that the toddy has gained notoriety for adulteration with chloral hydrate and diazepalm to give consumers the extra high. Each bottle is sold for ₹ 25-₹35. The enforcement wing of the Excise Department has regularly inspected the shops for adulteration and has also booked cases. Some of them were even closed down, but reopened later allegedly with the connivance of the officials. A shop owner asks whether they would survive in the trade if they did not give the consumers the required high, more so when most of them are labourers, who cannot afford the Indian-made foreign liquor in equal quantity.

Bandi Narsa Gowd, honorary president of Telangana Gowda Sangham, said, “What is wrong in adulteration of toddy when the government itself sells cheap liquor? Let the government allow us to mix liquor instead of powder and we will do it”.

On the profitability of the societies, Mr. Goud said summers are a boom time as the consumption is high. The income dips in rainy and winter seasons, he added.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 1:58:24 PM |

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