Adulterated alcohol kills hundreds in India every year. This video highlights one of the reasons why it happens: Shops sell alcohol without a bill.
Mani Macnickem, the correspondent of this video lives in a slum of Chennai’s Ashok Nagar, captures in this video a government-owned liquord shop in his area whic sells alcohol without issuing a bill. The consumers are like Mani - Dalit and poor.
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In Channai and elsewhere in the state of Tamil Nadu, all government owned alcohol shops are supervised and run by a single corporation – Tamil Nadu Sales and Marketing Corporation (TASMAC). The shop in Mani’s slum is also supervised by TASMAC. Despite being a government outlet, the shop doesn’t issue a bill, in clear violation of excise rules. This means, people are buying bottles which they believe are of good quality, but if it turns out to be adulterated and poisonous, there is no way they can hold the alcohol seller guilty of that.
This also means, the shop isn’t paying any taxes to the government as no bills mean zero sales!
Deaths from adulterated alcohol are frequent and rising in numbers across Indian villages and towns. The brew is often spiked with pesticides or chemicals like methyl alcohol and even battery acid to increase the kick. The spiking makes the drink a lethal cocktail that causes blindness and damages vital organs resulting in death.
Ironically when Mani was shooting this video last month, in neighboring state of Kerala, 26 people had died drinking spiked liquor. Among other recent incidents, in 2009, over 127 people had been killed in Gujarat and nearly 200 in Bangalore. Of course many deaths also go unreported.
Nobody knows how many of the guilty alcohol sellers in all these cases were brought to justice. Worse still, how many of the families of the victims – which are always poor, uneducated and mostly Dalit, were compensated, is also a mystery. The relatives of the dead are sometimes given money, but those who survive with organ damage or other serious injuries live in extreme misery.
Mani thinks, it will be the same in his slum too, if tomorrow the liquor consumers here find the drink impure and fall sick. Few will be able to drag the guilty shop seller to court. The people are not educated and are too poor to pursue legal matters that in India run for years. Besides, if there is no bill to prove the purchase of the alcohol, how can one even claim compensation? So the poor is affected first physically, as well as financially.
The remedy is really simple, says Mani: Chennai government must make TASMAC follow it’s duties and make sure that all the licensed shops are producing bills. Not only this will save people’s lives and avert big disasters tomorrow, but also ensure, that the loss that the shop owner is incurring to the government by not recording the sales of liquor bottles, will also stop.
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