CHENNAI: Do the TASMAC employees share the same enthusiasm shown by the State government and tipplers over the reopening of liquor shops? The employees have been raising several issues even before the coronavirus broke the long line of booze lovers in front of liquor outlets. Now, with the shops being reopened in non-containment zones, those issues which had taken a backstage for almost two months, have come to the fore again, but spiked with safety concerns.
Trade union leaders associated with the State-government undertaking said the management is paying little attention to the safety of employees despite the sector contributing a large sum to the State’s coffers. They alleged that the expenditure incurred by staff for loading and unloading the stock, for setting up barricades and purchasing sanitiser are not being reimbursed.
N Periyasamy, president, Tamil Nadu TASMAC Paniyalargal Sangam, affiliated to AITUC, told Express, “The number of masks, gloves and disinfectant bottles supplied to us was insufficient. Many employees had to buy these essential items by spending their own money. Besides, the staff are spending from their pockets to pay the transport cost of bringing fresh stock to outlets.” “If any employee contracts the infection while on duty, the same compensation which is given to employees of various government departments, should be given to us as well.
Also, government job should be given to one of the family members, if any employee succumbs to the disease,” Periyasamy added. He alleged that many employees have been compelled to stay at outlets during the night. “There are around 25,000 employees including supervisors, salesmen and assistant salesmen. They are forced to do double the duty. We demand that special pay be given to these employees. Also, the government has not made any transport arrangements for the staff.
After duty, we go home very late, hence the government should arrange transport facilities.”
Claiming that staff of liquor shops in Kerala had better facilities even though sales are yet to resume there, Periyasamy said TN should emulate the neighbouring State. K Thiruselvan, general secretary of TASMAC Uzhiyar Maanila Sammelanam, said the government has not paid much attention to the safety of the TASMAC employees. He alleged that the management was concerned only about the sales but not the issues faced by employees.
He demanded that at least thermal screening should be done for employees before they enter and leave the outlets. Sales should be monitored through CCTV cameras in all shops, he says adding that their several issues, including regularisation of service and time-scale pay, have been pending for a long time. When contacted, TASMAC Managing Director Kirlosh Kumar denied the allegations.
“We have already given instructions to reimburse the amount spent on setting up barricades, loading and unloading of liquor stock, among others. The employees just have to produce payment vouchers to get the reimbursement. It will be done in the coming week.” About the allegation that insufficient masks and sanitisers are being given, the MD said, “Sufficient quantities of masks and sanitisers are being given. We have placed orders for more.”
Many Chennaiites return with hard-earned bottles
The scorching Kathiri Veyil or long distances could not deter many tipplers in the city as they set out on a long trip to neighbouring Chengalpattu and Kancheepuram districts to quench their ‘thirst’ on Saturday. Even as TASMAC, armed with a Supreme Court order, opened its outlets across the State, liquor enthusiasts in Chennai and Tiruvallur district are forced to stay under a ‘dry spell’ due to the rising Covid-19 cases.
Some city residents on Saturday travelled even as far as Cheyyur in Chengalpattu and Achirupakkam in Kancheepuram to get a taste of the sparkling liquid. However, as if to justify the fear of many, social distancing went for a toss at many outlets as people poured in from various places despite the TASMAC management issuing just 500 tokens per day per outlet. Meanwhile, only half of the total outlets in Chengalpattu and Kancheepuram districts were functional in adherence to the norm that shops falling within 50km radius of Chennai should not be opened.
Some tipplers from Chennai managed to reach the outlets as far as 90 km. “Some people from Chennai were travelling without passes. We sent them back after finding that they were going to buy booze. But, some others made it through interior roads and reached the outlets early in the morning,” said a police officer. Strict vigil was maintained by at least 12 police personnel around each liquor store and circles were drawn to maintain social distance. “After 500 tokens were issued, we sent back others asking them to return next day,” said a police officer. While some Chennaiites managed to return with their hard-earned liquor, many others returned empty-handed. (With inputs from Sahaya Novinston Lobo)
Women stage protest
Coimbatore: A group of women in Immidipalayam village near Kinathukadavu staged a protest on Saturday seeking to close down liquor shop in their locality. Over 30 women participated in the protest and they have urged the district administration to close the shop immediately. A villager said, “Since the liquor shop is located near our village, many tipplers enter the village and create ruckus at night. Due to this, girls and women are afraid of coming outside.” K Shantha, a homemaker, said many men in the village were addicted to alcohol and tortured their wives. The protestors have decided to submit petition to the collector seeking the closure of the liquor shop.
‘Sales not as expected’
Coimbatore: Despite reopening over 97 per cent of TASMAC shops in Coimbatore on Saturday, no rush was reported in most outlets. A TASMAC official told TNIE, “Now that buying liquor has been made easier with the issue of tokens, people must have thought that they could visit the outlets any time. This could be the main reason for the sales to nosedive on the first day. Besides, the liquidity crisis could have also be a cause. Although we were prepared to issue 500 tokens per day in each shop, the sale was not as expected in many outlets. In a way, the drop in liquor sales has helped avoid law and order issues.”