500 liquor shops shut as Indian state goes dry

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Five hundred liquor shops were ordered closed from Sunday (June 19) in India's southern state of Tamil Nadu after its newly re-elected government pledged to ban alcohol to curb violence and other problems.

The Tamil Nadu government issued a statement ordering the closures as part of staggered plans to become the latest state in India to introduce prohibition.

The statement said 500 Tasman retail vending liquor shops would be closed, referring to the government-run Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation outlets. Operating hours of all others would be reduced.

Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram and leaders of other political parties promised prohibition during campaigning in last month's state election.

The pledge was popular with women voters, who blame alcohol for much of the state's domestic and sexual violence, and for depleting the income of poor families.

Experts have expressed caution, saying drinkers could simply buy grog in neighbouring states and bring it back. Others point to a possible rise in the production of illegal and often deadly moonshine.

The neighbouring southern state of Kerala, which draws tourists to its tea plantations, lagoons and lakes and sweeping coastline, started banning alcohol sales in most hotels from 2014.

Bihar in the east, one of India's most populated and impoverished states, introduced prohibition this year in a bid to prevent meagre family incomes being spent on booze.

Western Gujarat introduced prohibition decades ago, while some states in the remote northeast also have bans in place.

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