Meghalaya Government has failed to ban gutka since 2012

Written by Meghalaya Times. Posted in Editorial

Thomas Lim
The ban on gutka came into effect on September 2012 in the national capital and all the states are expected to follow-up, whereas, the gutka mafia has repackaged the same from the normal paper package, and some even with metals. Even the television commercials promoting gutkha were on full swing without any restrictions. This is quite a worrying issue for most of the parents and the activists, but who can fight against such tycoons who are allegedly running the government?

It may be recalled that a blanket ban on manufacturing, sale, storage and display of all gutka (a preparation of crushed betel nut, tobacco, catechu, paraffin, slaked lime and sweet or savory flavorings) products in the national capital came into force on September 11, 2012.  A similar comprehensive ban came into effect in Gujarat also. The ban will also include pan masalas and similar products containing nicotine and tobacco. Ban will be implemented by the department of prevention of food adulteration and strict action will be taken against the offenders as per provision of Food Safety and Standards Act. Violators of the ban may face a maximum jail term of six months and a penalty of Rs 2 lakh.
Gutka is a highly addictive and a known carcinogen; it is currently the subject of much controversy in India. Many states have sought to curb its immense popularity by taxing sales of gutka heavily or by banning it outright. Whereas, Meghalaya is mute on this particular issue, free marketing or display can be seen in any nook and corner of the state.
Earlier some states had taken a similar action, the states includes Bihar (May 30, 2012 ), Chhattisgarh (July 24,  2012), Delhi (September 11, 2012), Goa (October 2,  2005), Gujarat  ( September 11, 2012), Himachal Pradesh (13 July 13,  2012), Haryana ( August 15,  2012), Jharkhand (July 24,  2012),  Kerala (May 25,  2012), Madhya Pradesh ( April 1, 2012),  Rajasthan (July 18,  2012) Punjab (August  26, 2012), Maharashtra ( July 20, 2012)  and Mizoram (September 2012).
Eating betel nut is customary in Meghalaya, betel nut and leaf is a huge business in the state, yet the imported gutka has penetrated across the population. It has not only caused oral cancer and other related sicknesses, entire drainage systems in the state have been choked. Worse is the situation in educational institutions and government offices. The civic sense of the public is pathetic when it comes to rubbing lime, spitting after consuming betel nut  or gutka, cigarette butts and matchsticks littering the entire place. No compounding or sever action against such acts has encouraging the public to continues all such nuisance.
In the case of Delhi, the department of prevention of food adulteration has been empowered to take action, in the state of Meghalaya, banning of smoking in public places is found only in the gazettes while the ground reality is that smoking is free in the state of Meghalaya. How does one expect the state to ban gutka?
In India, social custom does not permit children to smoke cigarettes, so also the use of gutka as it is considered being the substitute of cigarettes, but the present day youths are consuming gutka openly. The teenagers can also easily purchase liquor from any wine store, how does one expect to restrict the sale of all such highly addictive products in Meghalaya?
In the absence of any authority to monitor the banning of smoking and sale of liquors to minors, more and more teenagers and the youth have turned into addicts.
Meghalaya too should ban the sale, store of gutka in the state, by appointing authorities to monitor the sale of any form of gutka here. Similarly appointment of authority to execute ban of smoking in public should be supervised, least talk about banning of liquor, as the traffic police here hardly break out breath detectors to curb drunken driving which has already claimed many lives.
The pressure groups or any social organization should come out to pressurize the authorities to implement the ban of any such habits in public places, or file a Public-Interest Litigation to find out the cause of the failure of the authority to implement the ban in Meghalaya. They should also press the state government to also ban gutka. Meanwhile, the authority concerned should evict the vendors selling tobacco in the proximity of educational and religious institutions.


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