TIRUVANNAMALAI: Tiruvannamalai town is famous across the globe for its spiritual ambience. But the presence of a large number of TASMAC outlets, particularly in the temple town, is posing a threat to the pilgrims.
In fact, the educationally backward district has the highest number of TASMAC outlets (299) in the State. Of the total liquor shops, 20 shops are located in Tiruvannamalai town, with one of the outlets located in one of the four Mada Streets.
Officials of TASMAC, Tiruvannamalai, justify the number of outlets saying the district has the second highest number of village panchayats (860). “The outlets are set up based on population and distance between two outlets. There are more village panchayats located here,” says Pushpalatha, District Manager of TASMAC. She says that 21 outlets were closed down last year following public protest and a high court order. She further stated the outlets net around `3 crore a day.
Speaking about the problems pilgrims face, Tiruvannamalai district Hindu Munnani president T S Sankar says, “There are several cases of chain snatching and robbery targeting the pilgrims performing Girivalam reported in the town. We want the government to impose total prohibition in the holy town.”
Many cases of chain snatching and robbery along the 14 km Girivalam path goes unreported, he adds.
Admitting this, a police official in the District Police Office said, “There is an increase in cases like gas cylinder thefts, pick pocketing, robbery and chain snatching in the district, particularly in Tiruvannamalai town. The persons involved in such petty cases are mostly youngsters addicted to liquor.” Recollecting the murder of a 24-year-old in January, a police official said a small tussle between two groups of drunk youth led to the murder.
Tha Ma Prakash, a social activist, says alcohol was one of the factors that lead to dereliction of culture, social and family values. “It is the need of the hour to close down liquor shops and open de-addiction centres,” he quips.