CHENNAI: A for Alcohol, B for Brawl, C for Catcalls and D for Drunk. Don’t be surprised if this is what teachers use to get their kids to learn alphabets at this school.
Just two buildings away from GRT Mahalakshmi Matriculation Higher Secondary School is a crowded TASMAC liquor retail shop on 7th avenue, open 12 hours everyday, transforming an otherwise peaceful road in Ashok Nagar into what Anusha R, a Class 9 student, calls a haven for drunkards and eve teasers. “They occupy more than half the lane. We try to avoid going that way as we feel very unsafe,” she says.
The school has a basketball court situated across Plot numbers 21 and 22, Rukmini Street, which is bang opposite the wine shop. Unfortunately, the court, too, has become a meeting place for anti-social elements who linger around and take refuge there at night.
The conditions for a liquor shop to operate under Tamil Nadu Liquor Retail Vending (in Shops and Bars) Rules, 2003, prohibits them from being established within a distance of 50 metres in municipal Corporations and municipalities (and 100 metres in other areas) from educational institutions or any place of worship. That seems to have been given a go-by here.
“There are eight schools in and around this area, and one temple which is just a stone’s throw away,” pointed out the school principal Vaidehi Krishnan. She charged that inebriated men often resort to indecent behaviour that raises questions about the safety and well-being of not only teenage students but also of residents living nearby. Sumithra Siva, a school teacher and resident from the area concurred with her. “You can find them there every day. Many pass comments, and at times pick up fights with passers-by. It’s simply tiring to put up with this daily nuisance,” she added dejectedly.
According to local residents and school authorities, they have been taking up the issue with TASMAC, the State-owned liqor Corporation, ever since the wine shop came up about 12 years ago. “A few years ago, we and a few residents had conducted a signature campaign against the shop and the nuisance it was causing. We sent it to the TASMAC officials, and also forwarded a copy to the CM’s Cell. But as you see, the shop is still functioning in the best way possible,” Vaidehi sarcastically noted.
When contacted by City Express, TASMAC officials said they would look into the complaint and take appropriate action. “We are sorry about the negligence, but shall do the needful as early as possible,” said an official from TASMAC.