Mahatma Gandhi Community Forum

Is one more Gandhi needed for "Total Prohibition" in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu?

Is one more Gandhi needed for "Total Prohibition" in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu?

What is the fate of “Complete Prohibition” in Tamil Nadu?

Tamilnadu is one among the few states in India which is often in the news for its liquor policies and prohibition formalities. For years, the state government has been adding a huge amount of money to its exchequer by licensing and selling the liquor through around 2500 government controlled shops by Tamilnadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC) all over the state. Liquor sales in 2010-11 was 14,965.42 crore rupees while the provisional figures for 2011-12 were 18,081.16 crore rupees, registering a 20.82% increase. Every year during the New Year and Pongal festival celebrations in the month of January alone, TASMAC is making around Rs. 500 crores by selling liquor in wholesale and retail.

Earlier, more than a decade ago, the state has banned all country liquor, arrack shops and other forms of innate alcoholic production for consumption of the common man as it led to many casualties caused by contamination and pollution in the liquor sold to villagers and farmers. The licenses to TASMAC shops are granted by systemic auction and allocation process every year and those shops have become unionized effectively to the extent, so that government offer bonus and other benefits to the employees which comes roughly around ten thousand.

In the recent years, crime rates have increased due to proliferating drunkards. Be it domestic violence, murder or vehicle accidental deaths, studies show that more than half of the crimes are caused by the assailants drunken state. And, the Department of Police, Transports and Highways have initiated the public awareness campaign to avoid alcohol while driving or riding vehicles.

And, this campaign was supported by few regional political parties like PMK, MDMK, INC and other social organizations. Over the past years, the issue of “prohibition” has become a political agenda and to name it specifically, the PMK has conducted alcohol awareness camps all over the state to promote prohibition. The MDMK leadership also uses the issue of alcoholic ruins occurring at domestic and public levels. Needless to mention about the Gandhian activists and social organizations, who took up the issue on the streets to create awareness on the evils of alcoholic use.

But, the year of 2012 had seen a dramatic change in these campaigns against alcoholic beverages. Camps and Campaigns thus so far been grabbing public attention have turned into un-serious protests demanding the state government to abolish alcohol and to close TASMAC shops permanently. Adding to the surprise, political parties which aimed for some gains out of prohibition awareness campaigns too have joined in the protests and extended their support for those who demand total prohibition in Tamilnadu.

The state of Tamilnadu has seen a highly momentous protest when Gandhian activist Sh. Sasi Perumal started his fast on the martyrs’ day, January 30, the day of Gandhi’s demise on the beaches of Marina in Chennai. He was arrested but he stuck to his vow to continue his fast unto death until the government brings complete prohibition. This 57 year old satyagrahi from Salem continued his protest/fast which lasted for more than a month and at the end, on the 33 rd day, he was admitted to the local hospital and subsequently withdrew his fast.

It was his ill fortune that his efforts went in vain despite the support from many regional parties, students and social organization. His protest lacked clarity and organizing cadres, it’s not a surprise that the high-handed rulings gave no attention to him except to protect his health and provide adequate media exposure to telecast the fast all over the state. Unlike Anna Hazare who awakened the whole nation for his fast for bringing the legislation against corruption, this Gandhian did not provoke any supporting units from other parts of the state and the public merely showed sympathy on a single man who was man-handled by the police during the arrest.

Complete prohibition is not in the hands of any individual or in the long lasting fasts or protests! It is in the hands of the public who should come out to streets to provide support to anyone who would launch a protest against the alcohol. The people of Tamilnadu must show a firm conviction in abolishing the alcohol use which devastates one in a ten family in the state. The people of Tamilnadu must form in to smaller groups in nook and corners of the state to persuade the government to close all the TASMAC shops. But, this did not happen in the event of Sasi Perumal who solely took the issue on his shoulders along with the fickle minded parties which had, indeed, gave wrong signals to the government.

The evil what the liquor does to families were long felt by Gandhiji: Only those women who have drunkards as their husbands know what havoc the drink devil works in homes that once were orderly and peace giving. Family values are degrading these days among the poor and it is known well from the fact that almost all the television channels telecast programmes in which victims are interviewed upon their distress, suffering and agony caused due to a drunkard family member. Hospitals too have a record of their patients which tells us another fact that around three-fourth of them have bodily complaints caused by excess drinking of the liquor.

Gandhiji said, “It is wrong and immoral for a nation to supply intoxicating liquor to those who are addicted to drink.” The statutory warnings and advices have never gone right into their minds. Drink makes a man forget himself. He ceases to be a man for the time being. He becomes less than a beast. And these words of Bapu are painfully felt by the good-hearted souls and some social organizations and that transformed into a positive energy to abolish this social evil, but they could not beat the power play and money clout behind it. All they could do is to crave for the light in the darkened livings of the poor. The state need not have to do this for millions of people who lost their lives and values, and who still have not liberated themselves from the clutches of liquor on their own.

To suggest a possible solution out of many ideas poured in by social activists and the public, one seems to be a more practical: The state shall not have to count the financial loss of abolishing TASMAC as purely an economic issue. 20K billion rupees can be earned through many other state-run industrial or public projects. Another government sponsored project/scheme can well be dedicated to the complete eradication of liquor in the state. The revenue of that project could wipe out the tears of millions whose families are thwarted by this sinful scheme of selling liquor through TASMAC.

Is the state need another Gandhi to save people from the clutches of the liquor sprite?

- First published in the Monthly Newsletter April 2013, BB SYSTEMS(CITGPNP)

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