Chennai: The Tamil Nadu government on Thursday reiterated that it was committed to introducing total prohibition in phases, but this process has to be calibrated carefully, lest it could open the floodgates to unlimited illicit arrack.
State Excise and Electricity minister, P Thangamani, participating in the debate on the demands for grants for his departments in the State Assembly, was responding to Congress MLA Mr Prince's charge that the quality of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) retailed by the state-owner retailer Tasmac was poor. “It creates health issues to consumers including kidney problem,” the MLA alleged.
Intervening, Mr. Thangamani said if people consumed IMFL drinks in moderation, there was no major problem, only excess drinking led to health issues. Re-emphasising the phased prohibition policy, announced when Ms Jayalalithaa was the Chief Minister, the minister said the government was implementing in letter and spirit.
“If we close all the wine shops in one go, then illicit arrack will take hold of the scene and run like river,” the minister said, adding, the government was hence closing the Tasmac wine shops in phases. In Tamil Nadu, there was 6,132 wine shops and they have been reduced to 5,152 shops now. “We are shutting down the other wine shops in phases as affirmed by Amma,” the minister added.
Later, replying to the debate, Mr. Thangamani said the Government would undertake a study on the feasibility of setting up a 10 mld capacity sea water desalination plant near the North Chennai thermal power project in Ennore, at a cost of `200 crore.
The minister said `three crore will be set apart this year for awareness campaigns and district level camps against the evils of liquor. Referring to 26,056 sales staff in Tasmac stores in the state, he said government was giving them a consolidated pay. They were given annual increments and this year for shop supervisors, salesman, assistant salesman, he said, their consolidated pay will be increased by `2,000 across the board from April 2019, costing the exchequer `62.53 crore.
Earlier, while participating in the debate, DMK deputy leader Durai Murugan said the power projects announced by the government were not being completed as per schedule. It was the DMK that ensured free powers to farmers, he said.
Countering, Mr Thangamani said it was the MGR government that introduced free power to farmers. “You only extended the scheme,” the minister said. On delay in execution of power projects, he said there were due to various issues like land acquisition, challenging of tender decisions in court and environmental clearances. However, despite all these, workers were being implemented, he said.
Denying DMK MLA Senthil Balaji's charge that the state power utility, Tangedco was deeply in the red with mounting debits, the minister said its financial situation was not bad. The previous DMK government had left behind a debt of Rs.35,000 crore against Tangedco, “which we are now repaying with interest.” “Yet, the overall financial position of Tangedo is not dismal,” added Thangamani.
On Senthil Balaji's plea not to erect high tension cable towers on agriculture fields and instead lay the cables along the road,
Mr. Thangamani said these HT transmission towers were being erected to evacuate 6,000 mw of electricity from Chhattisgarh. A high power sub-station was being set up in Dharapuram, from where the power received from Chhattisgarh would be branched off to Kerala and Tamil Nadu, he said.
There was no technology as yet to transport such bulk volume of power except through high tension towers, and hence everyone should cooperate to implement this power transmission project, he urged....