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Gutkha ban falls flat

Gutkha ban falls flat
Highlights

AP first State to impose ban, but implements poorly Dearth of food safety officers to enforce the ban ...

  • AP first State to impose ban, but implements poorly
  • Dearth of food safety officers to enforce the ban

Hyderabad: The gutkha ban imposed by the State government on January 9, 2013, seems to have little impact, as it is still a major concern among the families of the consumers for its freely availability and sale. These voices were raised at a meeting organised by Association for Promoting Social Action (APSA), which is fighting against the oral flavour laced with tobacco, at Sundarayya Vignana Kendram, here on Saturday. A host of doctors, social activists and representatives of civil administration discussed a fresh plan of action to successfully implement the ban on gutkha manufacture, storage, sale, transport and distribution.

Speaking on the occasion, Tripurana Venkata Rathnam, Chairperson of Women Commission opined that though gutkha was banned in January, but it has not been implemented yet, this is the reason why it is available everywhere throughout the State. She said that a collaborative stringent action is needed by various departments to address this issue. Tripurana pointed out the lack of food safety officers to combat the extent of spread of gutkha - one of the major causes for oral cancer. She said that there were only 50 food safety officers to oversee the ban, which is inadequate resource allocation.

Dr Chandrakant Rao, managing trustee of SCOPE foundation and a dental surgeon, said that it took more than a decade for the AP government, first in the country, to realise and impose ban on gutkha, which is an achievement in itself. He recounted how 'Say no to gutkha' campaign was taken up under the guidance of the then President of India, Dr A PJ Abdul Kalam. He revealed how PILs were filed for the ban of gutkha, pan masala and their corporate sponsorship of sports and entertainment events, in High Courts and Supreme Courts since 1997.

He said that more than the ban, awareness among the public about the ill-effects of tobacco consumption needs to spread. He also cited Sharad Pawar as a living example of the effects of gutkha consumption. He also demanded the State government to include people suffering from health problems caused by gutkha consumption into 'Arogyasri' scheme. One of the speakers pointed out how gutkha continues to be manufactured actively under the nose of the administration at Eedi Bazaar, Moin Bagh, Shastri Puram, Kings Colony, Mir Alam Tank and other parts of Hyderabad.

He said that people like Hamid of Eedi Bazaar have become mafias in gutkha manufacturing and continue to be ignored by the State government. Common people vented out their anger on how gutkha is actively sold in every nook and corner of the city, though it is banned. Another speaker said, "Tobacco farmers don't have to put thorn-boundaries to protect their fields as they are sure even animals wouldn't munch tobacco plants. Then how come people can be so addicted to it."

A Sudhakar Rao, Joint commissioner for food and safety, Dr Nageswara Rao, Retd. dental surgeon at Gandhi hospital, Laxman Reddy, President of Jana Chaitanya Vedika, S Srinivas Reddy, Director of APSA, Dr Varalakshmi, OU General Hospital, Dr Heena Shaikh of Anti-Tobacco Council, T Damodar and Hanumanth Rao were present at the event.

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