PALAKKAD: In the light of the closure of bars, the possibility of spurious liquor flowing through the toddy shops in the State remains high as there is a serious mismatch between the number of coconut palms tapped in the state and the toddy sold at the retail level.
Says ADGP (Intelligence) A Hemachandran who has submitted a report on the likelihood of a hooch tragedy, “In the new scenario of the closure of bars and the demand for liquor remaining static, there will be a rush of customers to available outlets including toddy parlours. Therefore, there is the possibility of the licensees misusing the opportunity by mixing spirit and other ingredients to mint profits.”
Hemachandran says that though he will not be able to discuss on the host of recommendations submitted to the Government, the crux of it was that the Government had to first address the issue to reduce the “demand” for liquor. Or else, enterprising persons could seize the opportunity for making available liquor which could be low on quality and pose danger to the lives of the public.
The government policy stipulates that there should be 5 toddy tappers and 50 coconut palms attached to every toddy shop in the State. It is a fact that though there are 35,104 registered toddy tappers in the State who are members of the Toddy Workers Welfare Fund Board, only around 15,000 of them are employed, admits the chairman of Toddy Welfare Fund Board N Azhakesan.
He points out that in districts like Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta and Malappuram, there were no takers for toddy shops in auctions. Many shops have not been closed down in the hope that “worker committees” will run them, says district secretary of the Desiya Kallu Chethu Vyvasaya Thozhilali Federation K Sivan.
Azhakesan points out that now that the bars have been closed down, bids for toddy shops could attract renewed interest. Moreover, the workers who had left citing low wages could return if they are paid well. However, he says that at least 3 lakh coconut palms need to be tapped to satisfy the demand of the toddy shops in the State, but the fact is that even half of them are not being tapped.
Says assistant excise commissioner Jayanthi Vasan, “Toddy from Chittur in Palakkad is transported to other districts as trees and tamil workers are aplenty here. Around 650 inter-district permits have been issued in the district. Around 1.25 lakh trees are tapped in the district and another 25,000 in other parts of the State.”
Says Sivan, “Therefore, how can toddy be available in all the toddy shops in the state as one tree can give only 1.5 litres of toddy. Thus, the total production in the State is only 2,25,000 litres while the demand is many times more.