The Tamil Nadu Government on Tuesday announced that State-owned TASMAC liquor shops will not open on May 7 in Chennai in view of high incidence of Covid cases, but they will be thrown open in other parts of the State.
The decision will apply to areas in adjoining Kanchipuram and Chengalpattu coming within the boundary of Chennai district.
It said a decision on reopening liquor shops in Chennai would be taken later.
Even while announcing the decision to reopen the shops, the Government said they would not be allowed in containment zones where Covid is prevalent.
Now it has excluded the entire the Chennai district in an evident panic reaction as the number of cases has doubled in the last one week and touched over 1,700, half of the State’s total of 3,550.
It was aware of the ground situation in Chennai and the risk involved in reopening liquor shops at this juncture. That was why it said the shops would be open from 10 am to 5 pm and only five customers would be allowed to access shops at a time. Besides, bars attached to these shops would not be allowed.
Despite these caveats, the government feared that the reopening of liquor shops would lead to a mad rush as has been seen in other States and this may lead to further spike in cases. It has gone by the experience of Bengaluru and Chittoor. While the crowds in Bengaluru were orderly, they were chaotic in Chittoor.
Many States, in keeping with the Centre’s relaxation of norms, have opened liquor shops. It is only in Tamil Nadu has the decision revived the age- old debate on prohibition though the shops were shut in March, after the first nationwide lockdown came into force, in view of medical emergency and not as a matter of policy.
Even so, prohibitionist and Pattali Makkal Katchi S Ramadoss has said it will lead to community transmission, while DMK president M K Stalin has said the Government wants to give the appearance that everything is normal. Stalin has also said the sharp spike in cases in Chennai was because of ”mindless curfew” imposed for three days in the city, leading to panic buying and resultant crowding around grocery and other shops
He has said the government has used the relaxations announced by the Union Home Ministry during the third phase of lockdown to tap into liquor revenue as it is not able to get required assistance from the Centre to meet the extra burden imposed by the epidemic.
Even the newly appointed State president of BJP S Murugan has said the Government seems to feel the poor will prefer liquor to food.
Minister Sellur Raju has said the Government has taken the decision to reopen the liquor shops to save the hardship of people going to neighbhouring States for their drinks.