November 1st, 2015
Folk singer Kovan being arrested on charges of sedition for singing a anti-liqour song criticizing the CM J Jayalalithaa puts into perspective how much TamilNadu has failed to build on its history & success besides highlighting the eroding principles of democracy & rule of law in the state.
Kovan a extreme left leaning (not naxal) artist who has performed many times for various issues including implementation of Prohibition and the rising cost of food grains. He heads an organisation which specializes in raising awareness of social issues through art more specifically traditional dances & instruments. With 2016 general election coming soon, political parties have raked up the issue of total prohibition in the state in the light of some damning statistics 1.) Tamilnadu ranks number 1 in consumption of alcohol by volume 2.) From 2005 – 2014, Tamilnadu ranks number 1 in deaths related to spurious liquor with 1509 deaths. 3.) In 2013 Tamilnadu ranked 3rd in drunk driving related deaths. In the backdrop all this, it is quite appalling that an activist who raised his voice has been arrested by the government instead of holding itself accountable.
Why the hesitation in implementing total prohibition (liquor ban)?
The state enterprise TASMAC, is a company owned by the Government of Tamil Nadu, which has a monopoly over wholesale and retail vending of alcoholic beverages in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It controls the Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) trade in the state. It earned an estimated turnover of 183 crores in 1983 which reached a little more than 23,000 crores in 2013-14, often clocking record growth rates of 20 – 30 %.
The addiction of the state government to the revenue from liquor sale coupled with burgeoning per capita debt which has put Tamilnadu in a precarious situtation.
What were the charges against Kovan?
Kovan was arrested on the charges of Sedition, causing riots and intent to cause fear and alarm to public against state and incitement. What Kovan actually did was to put in the form of song and dance – the plea to implement total prohibition and decrying the issue of price rise whilst mocking at the larger than life persona of J Jayalalithaa among her followers. As Kovan’s lawyer rightly pointed, even a defamation case would not stand against Mr Kovan leave alone sedition.
Above is the song for which he is arrested
What was a bastion of democracy
It is worthwhile that former Kerela Chief Minister EMS Namboodripad had mentioned Tamilnadu as the only state where there was an air of freedom even during the dark days of emergency. During the present tenure of J Jayalaithaa close to 110 cases of defamation have been filed agains political leaders, editors and socialites. Which is ironical for state like Tamilnadu. Unlike any other TN has consistently had Chief Ministers who were from the film industry including the incumbent Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. This outrage, usage of archaic laws & legal machinery against people whose opinions are not agreeable is just a tip of the ice berg when it comes to what has gone wrong in Tamilnadu. The burgeoning per capita debt (highest in India) and the deteriorating growth rates (lowest according to once source) completes the whole circle.
TLI requests the government of Tamilnadu to implement total prohibition and also encourage activists who take up social issues for the purpose of awareness. A socially aware population with total prohibition implemented can only be a win-win for the government and the people. Kerela is a shining example of the same.