CHENNAI: The demand for total prohibition has been there for a long time in Tamil Nadu. But, it acquired momentum in the past few years due to the alarming rise in alcohol-induced crimes. However, in 2014 there was a new-found vigour in the campaign for prohibition and the year was witness to agitations by women and residents in one part of the other of the State to remove TASMAC shops in their area with the government too obliging on a few occasions.
Students, civil society organisations and political parties took to the strteets to press for makign the state alcohol-free. It was the frution of the seeds sown in 2013 by Gandhian Sasi Perumal besides political leaders like PMK founder S Ramadoss and MDMK leader Vaiko.
It will be no exaggeration to say that Sasi Perumal was solely responsible for drawing the attention of the State in 2013 and kindling a widespread debate on the issue. He was on a fast for 36 days despite deteriorating health with many political and apolitical personalities extending support to his steadfast struggle. In the political arena, the lone crusader for this cause for quite some years was the PMK founder. But, in 2013, many other political parties also woke up to the problem and started singing the chorus, taking the discourse to another level. Among them, Vaiko’s efforts and his passionate campaign were laudable. He went on a padayatra to many parts of the State. Continuing his crusade, he has been advocating that the AIADMK government implement prohibition to retain power in the 2016 Assembly elections.
Kerala’s decision to implement prohibition in a phased manner has ignited a spark here as well. Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has said that 700 bars would be closed down besides Sundays remaining dry days. This has given further momentum for anti-liquor chorus here. Ramadoss, wanted TN to follow suit. A youth organisation has come up with a novel digital campaign wherein people could express solidarity for the prohibition demand through a missed call to the mobile number 8144166099.
Yet, there are personalities like ‘Thuglak’ editor Cho S Ramaswamy who are pessimistic about the possibility of enforcing prohibition. But, the pro-prohibition activists highlight the social cost of alcohol consumption. In 2014, Sasi Perumal undertook a fast for several days in Delhi. Latter, he and his supporters selected 36 TASMAC shops in and around Chennai, and campaigned against alcoholism. On behalf of Liquor Prohibition Movement - Tamil Nadu, students and activists are taking out a 100-day padayatra from places including Kanyakumari, Tuticorin and Ettaiyapuram which would culminate at the Marina on January 12, 2015.
On the future course of action, Sasi Perumal says: “We are planning to move the Supreme Court seeking directions to enforce prohibition across the country.” And on January 30, the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, he would commence an indefinite fast urging the Centre to implement prohibition.
Since the pre-Independence days, Tamil Nadu has been a testing ground for implementing prohibition. Decades ago, the call for prohibition was given by late leader Rajaji. Later, as Premier of the Madras presidency in 1937, he was the first to implement prohibition. Until the Congress was in power, there has been a steady policy on prohibition. But, after the Dravidian parties took over the reigns, the policy was given up.
While there is huge popular support prohibition, the Toddy Movement led by farmers’ leader S Nallusamy, is campaigning for reviving the sale of toddy in the State.
He argues that toddy is a health drink and could be part of a nutritious diet. In this connection, on November 25, he met Chief Minister O Panneerselvam and submitted a representation. In his view, it would be unfair to sell the Indian Made Foreign Liquor through the TASMAC shops and deny the sale of the indigenous, natural beverage toddy. Nallusamy says the Toddy Movement would stage a fast on January 21 in the city urging the government to change its Prohibition and Alcohol policies and allow toddy extraction in the State.