From brink of closure, liquor outlets in TN back on a high

According to the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (Tasmac), the government-run monopoly agency selling liquor in the State, there were about 6,200 liquor shops in 2016-2017.
From brink of closure, liquor outlets in TN back on a high
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CHENNAI: Activists and public who campaigned for prohibition in Tamil Nadu cheered when the State government was forced to close down more than 50 per cent liquor retail stores in 2017 after being prodded by a Supreme Court order that directed all states to shut liquor shops along highways. However, as the data from government shows, this elation was rather short-lived – the number of shops has climbed sharply in the last five years, so has the revenue from liquor sales.

According to the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (Tasmac), the government-run monopoly agency selling liquor in the State, there were about 6,200 liquor shops in 2016-2017. Then came the order from the Supreme Court in 2017, directing the closure of liquor shops that are located within 500 metres of highways.

Then the Madras High Court directed the State government to close more than 1,700 liquor outlets that remained opened along the highways that traversed through municipal areas. These directives also gave the impetus to prohibition activists and victims of alcoholism, many of them women whose husbands got addicted, who began dreaming about a day when liquor is no longer sold in the State. It indeed looked like there was going to be unprecedented success: Just a year after the order, the number of Tasmac shops came down to 2,830.

But what none anticipated was how easy it was to relocate a shop to a location that does not violate the apex court order.

An additional 1,036 new liquor shops were established in 2018-19, taking the total to 3,866. It did not stop there. As revealed by the interim budget prior to the Assembly polls, 1,433 new outlets were opened within two years, pushing total tally to 5,299 liquor shops (as of February 29, 2020). The numbers went up again in 2021-22 to 5,402.

Apart from the drastic rise in liquor shops, the sales, too, have gone up sharply in these years. Officials figures show that the revenue from liqour has crossed more than Rs 36,000 crore in 2021 -22.

A senior Tasmac official told DT Next on condition of anonymity that liquor sales went up by more than 66 per cent in the last decade. According to the statistics he gave, liquor revenue was Rs 21680.67 crore in 2012-2013, which climbed to Rs 36,013.14 crore in 2021-22. To understand the stupendous rise, it may be noted that revenue was only Rs 3,639 crore in 2003-04.

When asked, the official said the income went up after the Tasmac management took a series of measures, including inviting liquor manufacturers who have distilleries and wineries in other states to register and supply their products in Tamil Nadu through the corporation. “In 2021-22, 541 new brands were released in the market against 478 brands the previous year,” he said. Introducing facility to use debit and credit cards, and other digital payment modes also helped, the official added.

Insiders hinted that the revenue could breach the Rs 40,000 crore this year (2022-23), as the government increased excise duty resulting in price hike ranging from Rs 10 to Rs 60.

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