Liquor menace in Tamil Nadu: CM Jayalalithaa may ban liquor in Tamil Nadu!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
Among poll promises, liquor ban has caught the attention of the Tamil politicians. The Opposition parties in Tamil Nadu are now promising to make the state a dry one to attract votes in the upcoming elections. But chief minister J Jayalalithaa, in trying to outsmart the opposition parties like DMK and PMK, is emerging the cock of the walk by planning to put the cork on the bottle first. Jayalalithaa is eager to thrash DMK and other parties by winning every single MLA seat in Tamil Nadu in the assembly poll when she announces and she does not want to leave any chance.
It was PMK’s chief ministerial candidate and former Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss who announced at a recent news conference that the enforcement of total prohibition would be the first official document he would sign if he were to become the Chief Minister of the state. PMK which enjoyed around 5 per cent vote share during 2011 assembly elections has been running anti-alcohol campaigns across the state and seeing a considerable support in its rallies especially from women. Other parties including the DMK, DMDK, Congress and BJP were quick to follow suit and tow the same line.
Other parties including the DMK, DMDK, Congress and BJP were quick to follow suit and tow the same line. Days after Anbumani Ramadoss’ prohibition cry, DMK president M Karunanidhi said he will take steps to enforce prohibition if the DMK comes to power in Tamil Nadu in 2016. In his statement, Karunanidhi had said that due to the absence of prohibition in Tamil Nadu poor people farmers, laborers and even students have taken to alcohol leading to hundreds of deaths in the state.
Rival party DMK leader Karunanidhi who was instrumental in introducing liquor culture in the state, thereby making Tamils extremely addicted to its negative impact said that it is not just men but women and young children who are getting addicted to this dangerous habit. He added that, “the question does arise as to why prohibition should not be imposed again in Tamil Nadu?” When the DMK leader’s statement drew criticism that it was his own party which had gone back-and-forth on prohibition since 1971, son MK Stalin followed up Karunanidhi’s statement with another assurance of enforcing prohibition if voted to power. Expert say it is indeed a fact that the easy availability of alcohol is a menace, but prohibition, as anticipated by the political parties, is not likely to become an election issue.
DMK hit back at PMK founder S Ramadoss who accused party chief M Karunanidhi of “ruining generations” by removing prohibition in 1971, saying it was an “outburst” as his “dreams” of making his son Anbumani Chief Minister of the state have been “shattered”. DMK’s Principal Secretary, Duraimurugan, asked why Ramadoss had “concealed” facts that Karunanidhi, who originally removed prohibition in 1971, restored it in 1974 and about the AIADMK government under M G Ramachandran later allowing opening of toddy shops. Recently, Ramadoss had said that by removing prohibition in1971, despite a plea from veteran freedom fighter and Swantantra Party leader C Rajagopalachari against doing so, the DMK chief had “ruined” generations.
Speculations are rife that the J Jayalalithaa-led state government is mulling a formula in response to the pressure building on it as almost all opposition parties have begun promising total prohibition in Tamil Nadu if they were to come to power in 2016. While some say the state may consider reducing the existing number of Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (Tasmac) liquor outlets, there are others who say more drastic steps to curb liquor sales could come into effect soon.
A source said that the options being considered include reducing the timing of sales at Tasmac outlets from 12 hours to 6 hours between 2 pm to 8 pm and to increase focus only on Elite Tasmac bars: neither the minister for Prohibition and Excise nor the Tasmac.
People are well aware that even if these parties promise prohibition and if they are voted to power, soon these parties are capable of going back on their promise and will reopen Tasmac,” said C Lakshmanan of Madras Institute of Development Studies. “If parties like DMK and PMK are se rious about the idea of prohibition, will they suspend any senior party representative who has ties with the liquor business? It is a well-known fact that Kaduvetti Guru (PMK), T R Baalu (DMK) and S Jagathratchagan (DMK) are all connected to the liquor industry. Any political party that is serious about prohibition should first expel their own party representatives involved in the liquor business “There is no doubt that the negative impact of liquor on common masses as consumption has pervaded deeply into society. Poor and common people spend too much on liquor and stand in long queues to buy imported “bottles” of colorful liquor.
Drinking is not a taboo anymore, especially because it has been made freely available in poor and lower middle-class residential areas. But the fact that every party, including the ruling party, wants to talk about prohibition is only to confuse the voter and to ensure that no single party takes advantage of the promise
Some critics, however, as usual say prohibition’s a terrible idea and government would revert back to liquor flow policy. They also argue prohibition does not solve the bane of drinking. It only forces the drinker to take the recourse of sources not under the purview of any standards or regulations. It can, and has in states with prohibition or prohibition like conditions, driven drinkers to life-threatening options whose suppliers are in no way accountable to anyone. Hooch deaths occur not because of offthe-shelf liquor being consumed, but because of safer, controlled options having been taken away. Prohibition may be the latest tipple in competitive state politics. But a ban on liquor pushes the drinker to go underground and risk a toxic death.