Even as TASMAC begins the process of relocating 504 wine shops along the State’s highways following a recent order by the Madras HC, the city’s residents have taken heart at the move. As this decision has been achieved after years of complaints that road accidents are going up because of access to liquor, City Express takes a look at some of the residential localities where people have been fighting for the closure of wine shops due to disturbances and inappropriate living conditions.
Angst in Ashok Nagar
Seventh Avenue on Ashok Nagar generally wears a busy look right round the day, with a school and a number of commercial establishments located on it. As dusk falls, traffic on a portion of the road tends to get clogged, thanks to the large number of tipplers at the Tasmac alcohol outlet, which also runs the adjacent restaurant.
The outet’s location is such that pedestrians fear — or at least have inhibitions — while using the road stretch. This is because residents say they encounter unpleasant rendezvous with the inebriated, leading to some not-so-pleasant encounters. The residents also point out that there have been instances of bar brawls spilling on to the streets.
Lalitha, a resident of W Mambalam, who takes the road daily, admits to receiving leery looks from the drunk, especially after sunset. She admits that during one such instance, a man even had the gall to follow her. Realising that she was being tailed, she made it to the nearest bus stop and boarded a bus, travelling for nearly half-an-hour in it before deciding to return. “I was happy that he did not board the bus too,” the sense of relief evident in her voice.
Unholy sight for devotees
Residents of Gowrivakkam under the Vengaivaasal village panchayat, a little away from Medavakkam, are yet to get relief from the trouble caused by tipplers at the TASMAC shop located in the bustling Velachery Main Road. The only liquor shop in the locality is a cause of worry to both commuters and residents in the surrounding areas and devotees to a nearby temple.
There are close to 90 families living in the locality behind the liquor shop on the three broad streets — Kolakarai Street, Vembuliamman Koil Street and Punidaamman Koil Street in Bhuvaneshwari Nagar. Seethalakshmi Koil Street, located right next to the TASMAC, is the connecting path for the devotees to a Sai Baba Temple.
But women, fearing inebriated men loitering around, walk the stretch on the main road to go to the temple.
“You can’t imagine walking in that particular street after 6 pm. Most of the men sit with the bottles in front of the houses and dispose them of there. Some of them end up in fights on the road. They were incidents of drunks attempting to misbehave with women and bar brawls, which were even taken up with the police,” Padmavathy, a resident said.
Residents say that there are two colleges on either side of the shop besides a school, and all the students use the bus stand opposite the liquor shop to reach their destinations and that there is a constant fear among them that they would end up in trouble with drunk customers. “We always go to the bus stops with the boys and take the bus even if it is crowded. Always there is a crowd in front of the liquor shop,” said a college student. It gets worse during the weekends when labourers come to the shop after they get their weekly wages. “These labourers don’t go to the bars, they sit outside. Since there are air-conditioned and non air-conditioned bars, there are people who come in cars and bikes, park their vehicle in front of our shops for many hours and have a drink. It spoils our business,” said a shopkeeper, who did not wish to be named. Residents recall there were even a couple of fatal accidents near the shop caused by drunks.
Residents claim they have petitioned their local panchayat, TASMAC authorities and even ministers to shift its location, but were yet to get any response from them.
“The person, who has taken the contract, seems to have political backing. Though we even found an alternative location to shift the shop, after so many years, it is still there,” says Balaji, a resident.
Rangarajapuram residents see red
Tucked away in the bylanes of Kodambakkam and surrounded by residential apartments lies the bane of businessman Ramachandran’s life—a TASMAC shop. The fairly big outlet, with an attached bar on Rangarajapuram main road also operates from the ground floor of a residential complex. The shop itself comes with the same characteristics that define all other government-run booze joints in the State—it reeks of stale sweat, deep- fried chicken, and cheap alcohol; and it always has tipsy men hanging around, often throwing up and passing out on the pavement nearby. But Ramachandran’s main grouse is the haphazard manner that customers park their vehicles on the street.
The problem is compounded by the fact that a gaping trench runs down the entire stretch, surrounded by piles of mud and debris that only allows one lane of traffic to ply on the road. “The parking problem was always an issue; customers frequenting the bar would even park their cars in the middle of the road. When I come home, tired after work, I am forced to walk into the bar and argue with whoever has blocked the road, or parked in front of my gate. I cannot even call guests to my house, because they would have to park far away and walk on the pavement encroached by the outlet,” says Ramachandran. With hardly a three-foot passage because of the dug-up road, women and children are forced to walk alongside the TASMAC outlet, rubbing shoulders with the drunken men who brush against them, complains Kausalya, who lives in the flat opposite the shop. “We wanted to give our flat up for rent and move elsewhere, but it is difficult to find tenants willing to live across a TASMAC shop,” she says.
For the residents of Poonamallee and Kumanan Chavadi, liquor shops are mainly in the commercial places. Since those places are considered as areas with floating population, they also have bus stops. The TASMAC shops are a nuisance to both the people and the traders.
“Whenever the shops are open, I witness some problem created by drunkards. There have been fisticuffs between the drunkards inside the bar and they even fight on the road,” says Murthy, one of the shop keepers in Kumanan Chavadi.
More than anything else, it is the rude behaviour of the drunks that the people find unable to tolerate. “The drunkards use lewd language and the women who wait at the bus stops are afraid,” says Uma, a college student and a resident of Poonamallee.
Besides, people who wait for share autos face more trouble since many auto drivers buy liquor and drink at the auto stand itself.
Many residents allege that the wine shops never follow the curfew and sell liquor till midnight. “Even the police don’t oppose that. If we make complaints they retaliate by saying ‘why do you care?” adds Murali.