Research Analyst, with a mandate to cover real estate, but often strays into imaginary castles in the air. Women and finance is another of my interests, being a woman and all. I believe in rebirth and evolution into a higher life form (ala journalist).

Meera Siva

One for the road

| Updated on July 28, 2013 Published on July 28, 2013

The crowd outside the shops every evening gives an indication of the profitability

But at what cost?

A government that fails to protect its citizens from harm is a failure. But to actually promote something that is proven to be harmful is callous. And Tamil Nadu state sponsored liquor shops are a prime example of this.

Intoxicating profits

The reasons for a government to be gung-ho about alcohol is simple – huge and growing revenue. Data from TASMAC website show that its turnover grew from Rs 140 crore in 1983-84 to Rs 23,500 crore in 2011-12. Unlike other public sector entities, TASMAC churns out a heady profit – Rs 18,000 crore, based on their last report.

Not just the wholesale, but retail outlets also have been doing financially well. TASMAC has around 7,000 outlets and it sells around 42 lakh cases of drinks each month. The crowd every day outside these outlets, is proof enough of their captive crowd and pricing power. The Government being a monopoly in both purchasing and distribution, commands enormous power over suppliers and as the profits show, it is using it to make the most of it.

Drink to ill-health

These profits however come out of the pockets of workers who only have a hand-to-mouth existence. Any savings that could have contributed to their family’s future and the nation’s investment is gulped down every evening. The family may additionally face loss of salary, health care expenses in the future, due to this habit. Ignoring the moral aspects or law and order issues or any indirect loss such as productivity loss, the direct costs are themselves too huge to comprehend.

One could argue that profits, that would have otherwise gone to private players, are used for state welfare schemes. And that illegal liquor sale has been known to cause deaths. True, but drinking was considered a vice then and now the government takes pride in this enterprise. And welfare may not have been needed if they did not drink in the first place.

Ironically, TASMAC’s purpose in getting into retail business, as stated in its website is to “eliminate the sale of contraband, spurious and non-duty paid liquor in some licensed premises under the system of retail vending by private persons, which can affect the public health of the liquor consuming public”. Let us all drink to that noble mission!

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Published on July 28, 2013
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