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Lockdown revives cry for total prohibition

Anti-liquor activists urge govt to gather resolve from ‘experimental’ closure; experts underscore possible harm

Published: 29th April 2020 05:47 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th April 2020 05:47 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHENNAI: After many decades, the Tasmac outlets have been forced to observe a total lockdown following measures to combat Covid-19 spread. With the curfew expected to end on May 3, anti-liquor activists are urging the government to gather resolve from this ‘experimental’ closure and enforce total prohibition.

‘Moodiyathu moodiyathaagavae irukkattum’ (let those shut stay shut) is their new slogan aimed at popularising the demand. However, experts are of the view that total prohibition is not possible as the move would spike demand for illicit liquor and put lives in danger. Moreover, just into the second week of the lockdown, reports of deaths related to varnish and shaving lotion intake had emerged. Thousands of litres of illicit liquor have also been seized from many places.

The anti-liquor associations are planning to petition CM Edappadi K Palaniswami urging him to implement total prohibition ‘since people are ready for it after the lockdown period experience’.

PMK renews appeal

PMK founder S Ramadoss, who has been demanding alcohol prohibition for many decades, renewed his appeal to enforce prohibition. “People have already shown their solidarity against liquor,” he said. State BJP president L Murugan too has asked the government to take the initiative considering the ‘happiness of women in the State’.  

V Sundar, coordinator of anti-liquor movements associated with the late anti-liquor activist Sasi Perumal, told Express: “The lockdown has shown that total prohibition is indeed possible. Sale of illicit liquor can be curbed by opening de-addiction centres.”
Sundar, who is planning to move the Madras High Court against reopening of the outlets, added, “Though the government is banking on Tasmac revenue, the health of people and peace at homes are more important.”

Don Bosco Migrant Services Director Fr Francis Bosco reasoned that an individual has to do something continuously for 30-40 days for any habit formation. “So, during the lockdown period, people have learned to live without liquor. Further, people are facing financial troubles and letting them spend on alcohol can make matters worse,” he said.

‘No example of successful prohibition’

Economist J Jayaranjan outrightly rejected the idea of total prohibition. “Liquor consumption is a matter of individual choice and there is no example of successful implementation of total prohibition anywhere. “Is the government pouring liquor into everyone’s mouth? It is an informed choice of every individual. Those who want can drink and the rest keep away from it. That is all,” he added.

Political commentator Sumanth C Raman is also of the view that prohibition is impossible. He says, “Just after the lockdown began, there were deaths due to consumption of varnish and other things in lieu of liquor. But after a few days, the number of deaths lowered due to availability of illicit liquor. Already, the government is facing huge financial crisis and it shouldn’t take any measure to worsen the situation. Secondly, it is very difficult to control illicit liquor sale. Once prohibition is enforced, ‘syndicates’ will form in every village.”“If prohibition is implemented, there won’t be control over the quality of the illicit liquor available. It is a social issue and it has to be handled that way,” he stressed.

Varnish deaths
Political commentator Sumanth C Raman is of the view that prohibition is impossible. He says, “Just after the lockdown began, there were deaths due to consumption of varnish and other things in lieu of liquor. But after a few days, the number of deaths lowered due to availability of illicit liquor. Prohibition is not a feasible solution.”

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