Facing flak for selling liquor through state-run outlets, ruling AIADMK said it was not opposed to prohibition as a policy but insisted implementation of dry regime would promote ‘rowdyism’ and anti-social elements and said it will consider such a move if the Centre imposed a nation-wide ban against alcohol.
Electricity Minister Natham R Viswanathan, who also holds the prohibition and excise portfolio, informed the state assembly that although revenue from liquor to the state exchequer had grown, it was not propelled by a jump in sales but was only due to increase in prices of alcohol.
“We don’t oppose prohibition as a policy but it is not practically feasible. Prohibition will lead to hooch and subsequently promote rowdyism and anti-social elements,” he said.
Viswanathan’s reply came after the entire opposition in the assembly, including DMK, demanded that prohibition be implemented in the state where alcohol is sold through over 7,000 outlets of Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC).
He said even some Islamic countries had not imposed prohibition and said the government will support the Centre if it imposed nation-wide ban against liquor.
“We regret that we cannot implement prohibition but if the central government proposed such a move, Tamil Nadu government will be the first to support that,” he said.
Responding to concerns raised by opposition members over increased revenue from liquor, Viswanathan said this was not due to increase in volume of sales of alcohol but due to hike in prices of various brands.
While the government earned a revenue of a little over Rs 21,674 crore from liquor sales in 2013-14, it had gone up to Rs 24,164.95 crore in 2014-15.
“The government led by Amma (chief minister Jayalalithaa) does not support liquor or oppose prohibition but we need to have a conducive atmosphere to do that,” he said.
The chorus for implementing prohibition in Tamil Nadu has been growing of late with political parties, including DMK, upping the ante on this issue.
DMK president M Karunanidhi, whose government during 2006-11 had continued with the earlier AIADMK government’s decision to sell liquor through TASMAC, had recently said his party will take steps for introducing dry regime if voted to power in the next assembly elections, due 2016.