Dry Way!

Supreme Court has banned on liquor sales on Highways not in all parts of India

By NS Venkataraman

The Supreme Court order banning liquor shops within 500 metres of highways has been criticized by liquor producers, merchants and drinkers all over India. Claims are made that such closure will lead to loss of millions of jobs throughout India and a huge loss of income for the government. These are exaggerated fears and misgivings.

The Supreme Court has ordered the closure of liquor shops within 500 metres of highways, arguing that people who are drunk and driving vehicles cause accidents, leading to injuries to people and loss of innocent lives. The Supreme Court has not ordered the closure of all the liquor shops in the country, but only those that are located within 500 metres of highways.

ORDER MAKES SENSE

While the reason extended by the Supreme Court order makes sense, there are even more justifiable reasons for applying liquor ban such as lakhs of men belonging to poor families becoming liquor addicts causing untold sufferings for the women in the families, leading to broken homes and uprooting the economic well being and the life of children. The recent trend of women also succumbing to liquor habits is causing alarm.

There are many persons who think that the Supreme Court should have gone a step further and banned all the liquor shops all over India, considering the harm that is being done to the fiber and fabric of the society.

STATE GOVERNMENTS APPROACH

To circumvent the order of the Supreme Court several state governments are now said to be taking steps to de-notify the state highways within cities and towns and turning them into urban roads, so that the Supreme Court order would not be applicable to them. This is a negative approach.

The state governments should react to the Supreme Court judgment positively, considering the enormous social evils that happen due to the rapid spread of liquor habit among people and particularly the youth. State governments should examine as to how they should deal with the matter in a proactive way and implement the Supreme Court order, without causing much loss of income and job opportunities.

There are elegant ways of doing this.

VALUE ADDITION

Molasses is the mother liquor left after the crystallization of cane sugar from concentrated sugar in the production process of sugar. Ethyl alcohol (ethanol) is among many products produced from molasses.

Molasses is an important building block from which several value added products can be produced, among which ethanol is one.

There are several molasses and ethanol based products that are not produced in India and are presently being imported in large quantities in the country.

There are a number of value-added derivative products based on molasses and ethanol that are not produced in India or not adequately produced and imported in large volume.

Considering the demand supply scenario and projected growth in demand for such products in view of the high relevance of the products to the Indian and industrial economic growth pattern of the country, there are excellent investment opportunities for setting up downstream products from cane molasses and ethanol.

INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY

Tamil Nadu is one of the leading states for number of liquor addicts and sale of liquor, which has happened due to the policy of Tamil Nadu government to sell the liquor through government owned Tasmac shops and in the process giving legitimacy to this bad trend.

Tamil Nadu had 6672 TASMAC liquor shops in 2016, which was reduced to 5672 shops due to public protests. Now, after the Supreme Court order, 3321 shops are likely to be closed. This would make large quantity of alcohol available for setting up alcohol based downstream products. Several molasses based projects can also be set up.

There are 27 private, 16 cooperative and 3 public sector sugar mills in Tamil Nadu, which produce cane molasses apart from sugar. In Tamil Nadu, there are around 330,000 hectares of area under sugarcane cultivation and production of sugarcane is around 22 million tonne per annum in a normal year when irrigation is adequately available. The production of molasses well exceed 0.9 million tonne per annum and ethanol well exceed 160 million litre per annum in Tamil Nadu.

Potential investment based on several molasses /ethanol based projects in Tamil Nadu could well be over Rs.30000 million. When in operation, such projects can generate substantial income to the state by way of taxes and duties.

Such project would also promote all round growth and generate employment at skilled and unskilled level. Such projects would pave way for setting up many ancillary units.

It will take around one year or so to implement such projects in a planned manner. Construction activity itself will spur considerable industrial and economic activity in the state.

The economic and social advantages setting up such molasses/ ethanol based projects in Tamil Nadu should be appreciated. Then, there would be no need to lose sleep over the Supreme Court decision to ban liquor outlet in highways.