Cops, officials hit a bottle-neck as protests rage

Tasmac authorities hunt for alternative spots to relocate 3,271 outlets in Tamil Nadu;  building owners hesitant in allowing outlets on their premises

Published: 13th April 2017 02:35 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th April 2017 05:15 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

COIMBATORE: The Supreme Court order banning liquor shops near National and State Highways has forced Tasmac authorities to lookout for alternative locations to relocate 3,271 outlets in the State, which, however, is easier said than done.
The supervisors of the Tasmac outlets that were shut were made responsible for finding out alternative locations, said Coimbatore District Tasmac Staffs Association general secretary John Anthony Raj.
“But even if we identify an alternative location, there will be opposition from public to shift the outlet closer to the locality. Apart from this, those already running bars in the locality are fearful about revenue loss and are instigating politicians and public to protest against opening of new outlets,” he added.
Police personnel across the State are facing a tough time disbursing angry protesters. In fact, police officers were instructed by the brass to pacify the protesting public and convince them to withdraw their protest so that the outlets could be relocated to newer locations.

(Clockwise from L) Protesters staging a hunger strike in a private building at Samalapuram in Tirupur district on Wednesday; women of Servaikkaranpatti in Pudukkottai preventing a lorry carrying construction materials for building a Tasmac outlet; and Sindu Nagar residents during a protest near Ondipudur in Coimbatore | Express

“We were directed to ensure that the protest does not continue for more than a day. Higher officials instructed us not to let public to stage sit-in protests. We were told to pacify the protesters, convince them to withdraw their stir so that the outlets could be relocated. We were told to share our mobile numbers with the public, so that they can call us in case any problem came up due to the functioning of Tasmac outlets in that locality,” said a senior police officer in Coimbatore.
Explaining difficulties faced by the administration in relocation of its outlets, a senior Tasmac official from Coimbatore region said of the 530 outlets that were closed in the region, which consists of Coimbatore, Tirupur, Erode and the Nilgiris districts, only 26 could be relocated. Tasmac officials in Coimbatore have got permission from a farmer to open a new outlet closer to his farm land at Nesavalar Colony, Sindu Nagar near Ondipudur, which also faced stiff public opposition.
“The land or building owners are hesitant in allowing us to open outlets on their premises fearing public protest. Even if we convince them, after opposition from the local public, they backtrack. We have to choose a location ensuring that it does not violate Supreme Court order and State government norms,” official added.

According to Tasmac employee union state president A E Balusamy, the State is already facing revenue loss due to slump in real estate business. “Tamil Nadu earns Rs 26,000 crore per year through liquor sales. The State does not want to lose the revenue,” he said.
Pointing out that the Supreme Court ruling on the closure of outlets has had an impact on hundreds of employees who have been working for more than a decade, Balusamy said the association has urged the government to shift the surplus employees to around 52 public sector undertakings and boards.
However, these efforts do not have the support of the activists who are seeking nothing less than the closure of all the outlets.
N Dhinakaran, founder president of All India Mahatma Gandhi Samooga Nala Peravai, said the Supreme Court order is a golden opportunity for the State to close down all liquor outlets. “The villagers should pass a resolution in the gram sabha meeting, usually convened on May 1, that the liquor outlets should not be established in their village,” he opined.
“The public are worried about Tasmac outlets coming closer to their homes. This is triggering the protest, which is a good outcome,” said noted folk singer and prohibition campaigner Kovan.

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