Thursday, Jun 06, 2002
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By Our Staff Reporter
In a memorandum, its vice-president, B.G.P. Murugesan, said the merchants' joy following the government decision to permit running of bars in wine shops, which would help in improving the IMFL offtake from the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation, seemed "shortlived" owing to the increasing police interference.
Until the decision to give licence for bars was taken, the merchants had been allowing customers to consume liquor in small places adjacent to their shops unofficially and enforcement authorities also winked at this practice for "obvious reasons''. But, the decision to legalise running of bars in IMFL shops put the enforcing authorities in low spirits for reasons best known to them.
The police, under the pretext of checking motorists, vehicle documents and driving licence near the IMFL shops, harassed the consumers coming out of the shops. The action was aimed at scaring away the consumers and thereby bringing down the business for "obvious reasons'', Mr. Murugesan stated.
Further, the police parked their vehicles in front of the shops to deter the customers from entering the premises. A cold war was going on between IMFL merchants and the police.
As a result, even after the merchants obtained bar licence, the IMFL offtake slumped. They were not able to achieve the target fixed by the Government and had to pay a penalty.
`Police role can't be eliminated'
Reacting, a senior police official on condition of anonymity dismissed the charges levelled by the wine merchants and said the police were conducting vehicle checks only as a matter of precaution to prevent drunken driving.
Also, the police entered wine shop premises for raids only to prevent sale of spurious stuff or seconds (excise duty evaded liquor) which told on the offtake from the TASMAC. Any fall in offtake would bring down the revenue for the Government.
It was unfortunate that merchants wanted to do business without any law being enforced. As their business meant a huge revenue for the State, they could always make representations to higher officials on police excesses, if any.
At the most, police role could be well defined or limited but could not be totally removed as was demanded by the merchants, the official said.
`Appointment of quality controllers'
Mr. Murugesan also pleaded for appointment of quality controllers at the distilleries. At present, revenue officials who were neither qualified nor trained were assigned the task of ensuring and certifying liquor quality.
Compared to other States including neighbouring Karnataka and Kerala, "quality liquor'' was not available to consumers in Tamil Nadu, he said. The IMFL merchants also wanted the Government to allow the wineshops and bars to remain open till midnight as was being allowed in other states.
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