The Tamil Nadu Government on Monday announced that liquor shops will be opened from May 7, much to the delight of tipplers.
It said the State-owned TASMAC shops will be open from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. and buyers should maintain social distancing. It said these shops will not be opened in containment zones.
It, however, said bars attached to TASMAC shops as well as those attached to hotels would remain shut.
The Tamil Nadu followed suit after neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala opened these shops, leading to tipplers from Chennai making a beeline to the border town of Tada in Andhra Pradesh, hardly 70 km away, and those from Hosur and Coimbatore going to Bengaluru and Palaghat.
While those from Chennai who came in cars were stopped at Tada in the Andhra Pradesh checkpoint by police on Monday, movement of people from other border areas could not be stopped on a sustained basis.
An official press release acknowledged that it was difficult to stop movement of people living in border areas to neighbouring States to buy liquor.
The Government said the Centre, while extending lockdown by another two weeks till May 17, allowed liquor shops to open.
Tamil Nadu has the maximum number of TASMAC shops and the liquor consumption is far higher than anywhere else with annual revenue around Rs 30,000 crore. Yet it shut these shops from March 25 to contain the spread of Covid virus.
Ironically the decision to reopen these shops came hours after the Madras High Court threw out a petition seeking imposition of total prohibition, taking advantage of the over month-long shut down of these shops since March. The court said it was a policy decision only the Government could take.
Though shops are going to be reopened, the tipplers can visit only their friendly neighbourhood TASMAC outlets in view of absence of public transport and restriction that private cars and cabs can carry only one passenger.
Like in Karnataka, in Tamil Nadu also liquor can only be bought from shops and taken home. Social drinking even in clubs is not on, as yet.