CHENNAI: Mere laws or rules would do little to help the cause of imposing total prohibition in the State and the goal would remain meaningless as long as customers still existed, Electricity, Prohibition and Excise Minister Natham R Viswanathan told the Assembly on Friday.
He underscored the State government’s stand that the imposition of prohibition here, while neighbouring States continued to permit alcohol, would only result in a boom in the illicit liquor trade and the concentration of money in the hands of anti-social elements.
“During her previous tenure, the Honourable Chief Minister had taken over the entire sales of alcohol in the State to ensure an end to the illicit liquor. This has meant that a lot of money, instead of ending up in the hands of anti-social elements, is now coming into the coffers, which spends the money on welfare schemes,” said Viswanathan, in response to a demand from CPM member K Balabharathy, calling for the imposition of total prohibition in the State.
“Our government is committed to the idea of prohibition. We are not backing it solely because it brings us revenue,” he said, adding, “Laws and rules alone will not help the cause of prohibition. We, people in public life, need to create enough awareness for people not to consume alcohol. Till there are still those who line up at the shops, it would not be practical to shut them.” Viswanathan’s comments on the issue came during the debate on cut motions on the demand for grant of the Prohibition and Excise Department, which he heads. Viswanathan announced some measures for the sector, such as the provision of bottle coolers for 2,000 TASMAC outlets, construction of two new warehouses, salary hikes for TASMAC retail staff and the provision of CCTV-IP cameras at 15 major border check posts to increase enforcement.
Documents tabled in the House by the government showed that the sale of liquor had fetched the State government a provisional `21,641.14 crore solely in excise and sales tax revenues. This was down from `21,680.67 crore the previous year, thanks to changes in the tax structure. The figure had been `18,081.16 crore in 2011-12, `14,965.42 crore in 2010-12 and `10,601.5 crore in 2010-11.