Tribune News Service
New Delhi, May 31
On the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi reaffirmed his government’s commitment to reducing tobacco use, widows of five men who died prematurely on account of tobacco consumption urged him to ban his home state Gujarat’s thriving chewing tobacco manufacturing industry. Gujarat is today India’s principal gutkha manufacturing state.
The five widows — Anup Shakti Nigam, Alka Pandey, Kumud Chaturvedi, Niku Sidhu and Sumitra Satish Pednekar — wrote to the PM today pointing out how gutkha, being produced and smuggled out of Gujarat, was threatening lives of lakhs of addicts.
The delivery of the letter coincided with the PM’s message on the occasion of “World No Tobacco Day” in which he said: “The Day reminds us of the harms associated with tobacco consumption and a day to reaffirm our commitment to reduce this menace. The WHO’s focus on stopping illicit trade of tobacco products is a laudatory effort that will help in minimising tobacco consumption.”
The women welcomed the message but said more political will was needed to ban chewing tobacco. In the letter they said: “The government is a major shareholder in the tobacco industry and our late husbands contributed considerable amounts to your government’s massive tax income from the tobacco industries, and also to the profits of Life Insurance Corporation and financial institutions who hold about 35 per cent shares in the ITC and other tobacco companies. Though states have banned chewing tobacco gutkha, there is only one state where gutkha is manufactured: Gujarat. From there, it is smuggled to all other states, in violation of the ban.”
Sumitra Satish Pednekar said her husband, Maharashtra’s former Home and Labour Minister Satish Pednekar, died in 2011. “He got so sick, he could not swallow even watery dal-khichdi,” she said.
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