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No more new liquor shops: Karunanidhi

Special Correspondent

Decision follows meeting with Ramadoss

Liquor shops to close at 10 p.m.

CHENNAI: The State will not open any new retail liquor vending shops from now on, Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi announced here on Tuesday. Also, the shops, which open at 10 a.m., will close an hour early from January 1, 2009 – 10 p.m. instead of 11 p.m.

This follows a meeting Mr.Karunanidhi had with the representatives of various pro-prohibition outfits led by Pattali Makkal Katchi founder S.Ramadoss.

Dr.Ramadoss, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi president Thol.Thirumavalavan and the other leaders had pressed for total prohibition in the State. They told the Chief Minister that they had passed a resolution at a meeting last month that organisations favouring prohibition would launch an agitation if their demand was not met within a reasonable period.

The Chief Minister told the group that prohibition was a desirable policy but there were practical difficulties. He said that this could not be implemented at once and, at best, could only be done in stages. Mr.Karunanidhi had given a commitment that he would take measures towards this end.

The Chief Minister pointed out that all over the State as many as 1,300 bars had been closed down and 128 retail liquor shops had downed shutters. A majority of these shops were closed this year. In 2007, as many 37 shops were closed following complaints from the people and in 2006, five were closed down.

Soon after the meeting with the pro-prohibition leaders, the Chief Minister convened a meeting of top officials to consider the demands. At the meeting, it was decided that the government would take immediate practicable steps so that its commitment to the ideal of prohibition was made clear. Accordingly, merely a day after Dr. Ramadoss made a series of demands, the government took the first steps in that direction, one official said.

More steps would be taken in a phased manner.

Retail liquor trade is a State monopoly in Tamil Nadu. It is among the largest revenue generators. In 2006-07, the State revenue stood close to Rs.7,500 crore and in 2007-08, it jumped to over Rs.8,800 crore.

This financial year, it is expected to top the Rs.10,000-crore mark, according to official estimates.

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