CHENNAI: If you thought the State’s seasoned tipplers are at it day and night, you wouldn’t be far from the truth. A reply to an RTI query reveals that ‘Day and Night’ brandy is the most sold liquor at TASMAC outlets across the State. Besides, Tamil Nadu youth have developed a firm connect with Russia. “There is a growing demand for vodka, especially among the youth,” says IAS officer T Soundiah, managing director of Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation, the State-run entity that netted `23,000 crore income in 2013.
The RTI response reveals that since 2005, brandy has been the most consumed type of liquor. From 2005 to 2007 and from 2010 to 2012, No 1 MC brandy was number one for drinkers in the State. An anomaly crept in from 2008-09, when ‘Old Mong Delex Rum’ (presumably Old Monk rum) topped the charts. It also looks like the quantum of consumption is quarter, as these 180 ml bottles have sold the most.
Interestingly, the ‘quarter’ concept goes a bit further – in the overall tax revenues of Tamil Nadu, TASMAC is estimated to have contributed nearly a quarter (23.58 per cent) of the total `91,220 crore earned through taxes, according to government data.
Though the number of outlets has been constantly hovering around the sub-7,000 range, the income has been increasing rapidly over the years. There were 7,536 outlets in 2004, which has now reduced to 6,805, a drop of nearly 10 per cent. However, the revenue in 2004 was just `4,872 crore, while it has now rocketed to `23,401 crore – a surge of 380 per cent in a decade despite lesser number of outlets.
Despite the astronomical rise in income, the prices of Indian made foreign spirits (IMFS) were recently hiked for the sixth time in the past 10 years, according to the RTI. Yet, tipplers haven’t been deterred. “It’s been seven years since we gave the distributors a hike, and hence upward revision was unavoidable,” says Soundiah. Speaking on the impact of the hike, he adds, “Sales will dip a little but it will be back to normal in three-four months. Roughly 75 per cent of our consumers are from the lower class. They will cut down on the quantity till they make adjustments in their budget. They will eventually manage to cough up enough money for their usual amount, though.”
Besides, what liquor you find in an outlet depends entirely on the amount an owner is willing to shell out. According to a high-level TASMAC official, to stock each brand, you need to pay `1-2 lakh extra as license fee. So don’t be surprised the next time you go to the outlet and find that Baccardi Breezer vodka is not available – the outlet’s owner may have wanted to pay up for Smirnoff instead.
The rules for setting up TASMAC outlets clearly state that they should not be housed within a distance of 50 metres from a place of worship or educational institutions in Municipal Corporations and within 100 metres in Municipalities. Yet, several outlets flout the norms. Queried about this, an official takes the case of a TASMAC outlet that has been in a particular place for 10 years or so. As population expands, a temple or hospital may spring up nearby. So, the institution came in the TASMAC outlet’s vicinity and not the other way around. “We mostly shift the shops if there is justifiable cause — in a year we shift roughly 200 shops,” says Soundiah. Some demands for relocating outlets may not be as kosher as they appear, a TASMAC official claims. There are cases where the area councillor demands ‘mamool’ (protection money) from an outlet. If he is turned down, chances are he would rustle up a group of 50, shouting at the top of their voice outside the outlet demanding that it be relocated. Good old arm-twisting comes into play and the wait begins to see who will blink first.
In the State, there is a dubious distinction. A century is the least score districts hold when it comes to number of outlets. Starting with Arakkonam (100) to Thiruvannamalai (299), the State is definitely well stocked
While Tiruvannamalai has, on an average, one TASMAC for every 8,243 people (total 24,64,875 as per census 2011), Villupuram, second highest with 290 outlets, has one for nearly 12,000 people (total 34 lakh). Incidentally, Villupuram is home to 7.9 per cent of the State’s rural population, the highest
Madurai region (comprising Madurai, Dindigul, Sivaganga, Ramnad, Theni, Virudhunagar, Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi and Kanyakumari districts) has the highest number of outlets - 1,728 in all. Perambalur district, the most thinly populated, has one TASMAC for every 5,383 people, while chilled out Nilgiris has one for every 5,571
Coimbatore region (Coimbatore, Tirupur, Erode, The Nilgiris) has the least number of shops, and yet the income from this belt is among the highest. According to an official, the high income in the region and the cold weather make it lucrative and premium liquor is sold the most in the area