TASMAC tribulations-THE HINDU-16-05-2020
Faced with dwindling revenue due to the stagnation in economic activity since the national lockdown began, States are desperate to raise money to combat disease spread and to keep their public health services going. It is this desperation that led Tamil Nadu to rush to the Supreme Court to obtain a stay on a Madras High Court order barring the sale of liquor through its retail stores and mandating online sales alone.
The top court seems to be mindful of the need to preserve the policy space of States, reflected in its various interim orders declining to stop liquor sales. The Madras High Court initially allowed the State government to open its vast network of liquor shops, subject to several conditions for maintaining physical distancing.
Popular opinion in TN does not seem to favour the resumption of liquor sales at a time when the number of people testing positive for the novel coronavirus is spiralling. Even those who have no moral objection to liquor consumption would endorse regulations on physical sale, given the great danger of the infection spreading fast.
The reality is that selling liquor online would cut into the unaccounted extra fee that TASMAC staff charge for every purchase. Now that it has fought bitterly, even at the cost of making a highly contentious decision, to get liquor sales going, the State government has to live up to its promise of preventing overcrowding in the vicinity of its outlets.