Dry law in Tamil Nadu has had a chequered history. Total prohibition was introduced in the State for the first time in the then Madras province, comprising Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, when C Rajagopalchari became Chief Minister in 1952. After the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in 1953, the then Madras province, which was later re-named Tamil Nadu, remained dry for about two decades under Congress rule.
Prohibition continued even after DMK founder C N Annadurai formed his first government in 1967. However, when the party came back to power with a landslide victory in 1971, the DMK suspended prohibition. Ever since, prohibition has been wavering.
It was the then Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, who opened the State’s alcohol floodgates in 1972, stating that Tamil Nadu could not remain an island when liquor was freely flowing in neighbouring states. “Tamil Nadu cannot serve as camphor in the midst of raging fire,’’ was Karunanidhi’s infamous justification for lifting prohibition. Yet, he reintroduced prohibition in 1973.
His successor, M G Ramachandran, who came to power in 1977, relaxed total prohibition but brought in strict regulations and made liquor available only to permit holders.
However, he could not sustain the drill and gave it up in 1980. The State saw the mushrooming of arrack and toddy shops too, when the DMK came to power in 1989.
When J Jayalalithaa took office in 1991, the first file she signed brought the shutters down on arrack and toddy shops.
In 2003, another major change swept the State’s alcohol policy. The AIADMK government took over the sale of IMFL (Indian Made Foreign Liquor) and opened TASMAC shops to tap the huge revenue that was flowing into the hands of private parties.