Living next to a TASMAC outlet: A citizen experience

The presence of TASMAC shops in residential areas has inconvenienced many citizens. But despite protests, there is no attempt at lasting solutions, as the writer finds.

There are nearly 750 TASMAC outlets in Chennai district. As the sale of liquor is entirely controlled by the state, these outlets are the only vendors of alcohol for everyone across the city.

A sizable portion of revenue of the state government comes from the sales made by these outlets. Even during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the limited number of shops that were opened raked in revenues in crores each day.

Despite protests in various parts of the city and across the state, the state government has not kept its promise of closing down many TASMAC outlets. With cases of alcoholism and related issues creating grave issues in many households, protestors blamed the outlets for causing a crisis in the state. 

However, the government has barely undertaken any action against what is perceived to be a cash cow, with reports stating that the number of outlets in the state has bounced back to pre-2016 levels. 2016 is when the state had shut some shops as part of an election promise and an order by the Supreme Court on closure of liquor shops along the highway.

Another aspect of the menace posed by ubiquitous liquor shops across the state is their presence in residential areas. Many a quiet neighbourhood has seen its peace and tranquility shattered by the opening of these shops which invites many customers at late hours.

Nuisance in the neighbourhood

The street I reside in, Venkatraman Canal Street, off Perambur High Road has three TASMAC outlets within a distance of a hundred meters. The shops see a regular influx of customers at all hours. The opening of these shops has disturbed the peace of residents, made the neighbourhood unsafe and has set a bad example for the youngsters and children in the area.

A short but non-exhaustive list of issues we have faced ever since the liquor shops were opened in our area eight years ago:

  • Haphazard parking on both sides at the entrance to Venkatraman Canal Street, a narrow lane opposite to the Perambur Railway Station
  • Drunken brawls by the shop’s patrons that often spill over into the streets
  • Drinking & smoking in public spaces and not the designated bars attached to the shops
  • Extreme noise pollution, especially late at night, as loud music is played by the patrons who stay within the premises
  • Increased theft of two-wheelers, petrol from vehicles parked near homes, spare parts of vehicles etc
  • Increased instances of petty crimes and theft such as chain-snatching

One of the bars is located right behind my house and a part of it was operating open-air. I had to make modifications to my bedroom window and have it closed, to get some respite from the noise. It was only after a series of complaints and escalation that I managed to get them to increase the height of the scaffolding between our properties.

The window overlooking the TASMAC outlet had to be shut to prevent the noise. Pic: Raghukumar Choodamani

History of complaints

When the shops opened in my usually quiet neighbourhood, much to everyone’s discomfort, many issues were caused by their presence. I decided to highlight them through complaints to the police and to the Chief Minister’s cell. 

I highlighted specific instances and examples of the menace caused by these outlets. A chain snatching incident in the area was directly linked to some of the patrons of the TASMAC outlet and an FIR was filed regarding the same. 

To add to our woes, two-wheelers and other vehicles are parked on either side of the lane causing obstruction to free flow of traffic during peak hours, especially during weekends. In the event of any emergency it would be very difficult for an ambulance or a fire tender to enter or pass through our street easily. 

The vehicles parked on either side congest the narrow lane. Pic: Raghukumar Choodamani

Despite raising these issues and meeting with police officers, little has changed since I initiated the complaints in 2017. Soon after an issue was raised, patrolling in the neighbourhood was intensified. However, with the passage of time there has been a decline in visible patrolling especially in the evenings when the area is prone to unpleasant incidents. More presence of police in the area could serve as a deterrent to the problems faced by the residents.

During the spate of complaints filed by me due to the lack of action or follow-up, my concerns were even dismissed at various points with contradictory responses from officials. At  various points, I was referred to as a “petition-monger” and my concerns belittled as “silly complaints”.

This experience left me wondering if it was a crime to file a petition in public interest and expect some level of integrity, transparency and honesty from those who are responsible for addressing the grievances of the public. 

Contradictory response from the CM cell. Pic: Raghukumar Choodamani

COVID, a temporary relief

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic we were living peacefully for about four months of the lockdown when the liquor shops were ordered shut. This peace was short-lived with the government deciding to open the liquor shops in Chennai in August. 

During the initial months of reopening, even as sale of alcohol was permitted, the bars attached to the shops remained closed. As a result, the tipplers who bought the liquor from the outlets were free to drink where they wanted. Our quiet lane was converted into an open-air bar during the evenings and also during the weekend.

Over the last few weeks I have lodged several complaints with the Police Control Room seeking their help with not much progress on the issue. The situation is likely to be the same across the many neighbourhoods of the city that are troubled by the presence of these liquor outlets in close proximity to residences. 

With elections around the corner, one can expect more promises around the contentious TASMAC shops across the state and the earlier failed promises of the government. Now is the time all such affected citizens can raise their voices and register their complaints, and force the powers that be to take heed of this dire situation in many parts of the city and the state. 

Comments:

  1. Bharath says:

    These issues we are facing for years. About 20 years ago, arrack shop was opened and created big nuisances. Post that shops creating nuisances and now tasmac and newly constructed establishments creating big havoc. Newly constructed establishment is not having any parking facility. Other establishments in the Perambur high road, mentioned location in the article encroached the footpaths badly even people like me facing big problems.
    Coming back to our street, even police taking our calls and visiting personally there is no fixed solution for this. Repeated petitions by us also in dustbin. We will continue to fight for our safety.

  2. Veeren says:

    To have these outlets in crowded residential areas is one of the most irresponsible decisions that any authority can make. It’s pathetic how our well-being and peace is being compromised by those who are responsible to create it!

  3. Bharathi R says:

    All the residents in your area can file a public interest petition. The income from these tasmac outlets is more important to the government , so they are least bothered about public inconvenience. The bureaucrats replying to the petitions may not have personal experience, or neither their families need to coexist with tasmac outlets next door, hence such sarcastic replies.

  4. Ashokkumar says:

    What has been said by the author is very true. Streets are blocked entirely during the weekends and holidays by the Tasmac Customers. Living near a liquor bar is a nightmare

  5. Shahul Hameed says:

    We are living in hell. Drunkards consume alcohol in front of our houses and cause nuisance. The bars and hotels do not have enough parking. They block the streets with their vehicles and want us to take diversion in order to reach our homes. Happy some one is fighting on our behalf

  6. Praveen says:

    We should stop paying taxes till TASMAC is moved out of residential areas throughout the city.

  7. Rajini says:

    After getting down in train, walking from station to our house near perambur bus stand has become frightening because we have to pass all these arrack shops, so we had to either go roundabout way or catch other transportation. I hope they would take necessary steps quickly, so that everybody can walk without any fear especially women like us.

  8. Aravind R says:

    Anyone who has to walk past perambur railway station to bus terminus has to come across the Nuisance at these multiple Tasmac Wineshops day in day out. At any given evening not even two vehicles can go across venkatraman canal Street without moving the vehicles parked on sides of the road as if it is a dedicated parking lot for Tasmac customers. Look for an auto inside the lanes at night you can even find it to be converted to a mini bar on road.

  9. Dr.K. Shekhar says:

    Tasmac shops are considered as Golden treasure by the govt.Only the collective Will of the people can bring a change in the attitude of the Government.

  10. DESIKAN says:

    What is the need to have 3 TASMAC within a few metres gap, is the government only concerned on the revenue? is it not the government responsible to protect the local residents? They get the liquor and site in the Auto and drink and URINATE near by house wall. Not a single girl students or working women able to cross this TASMAC without SEXUAL HARASSMENT. Wake up .

  11. ER Venkatesan says:

    I am in total agreement with what has been said. Ladies, Children and Sr. Citizens living in our Vasanth apartment find it very difficult to step out or return to our homes during the evenings and weekends when the already narrow street is entirely blocked with two wheelers and autos parked. Drunkards can be seen consuming liquor or easing themselves on the streets during the night. CCTV cameras have been installed by the police but there seems to be no sense of fear. Let’s get our choices right in the upcoming elections.

  12. R. Chandravidhya says:

    Getting out of our houses in the late evenings has become impossible. I had been a victim of attempted chain snatching on 2 occassions and dread going out alone for shopping or a walk. Petitions filed with the Government seeking removal of a Tasmac cluster is rejected by the Tasmac Manager sayings it’s a government decision. We are only left to believe that Tasmac is running the Government in Tamilnadu. What a shame!!

  13. P Geetha says:

    We hv also experienced problems in valliammal street ,kilpauk as youngsters sit inside autos with a mini bar supplying n consuming drinks especially on holidays n weekends

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