The district administration is still waiting for an official directive for enforcing the ban on the sale and production of gutkha in the state capital. The Food Safety and Drug Administration (FDA) department, which is supposed to enforce the ban, however said there was no need for a directive when the notification had already been issued six months ago.
“Unless we get a written directive from the government, there is nothing we can officially do about it. It’s only after the directive, which is expected any time in the next two days, we are certain that we will start implementing the ban,” said Arun Kumar, city magistrate, Lucknow.
On October 4, 2012, the UP government had issued a notification banning the sale of gutkha from April 1, 2013 after the Allahabad high court asked the state government whether it could ban the product on the central government’s directive prohibiting sale and distribution of gutkha across the state.
“The notification clearly says the ban would come into effect from April 1, 2013. So anyone found involved in sale or manufacture of gutkha would be booked under the IPC,” said Pravir Kumar, principal secretary, FDA.
On Monday, the Supreme Court deferred the state government’s plea seeking an extension of the March 31 deadline to April 8. While issuing the ban order on October 4, 2012, the government had said it had given six months’ time so that lakhs of employees and labourers engaged in the long existing industry could find alternative employment.
Amidst the ‘ban or no ban’ confusion, gutkha sale continued unabated in the city on Tuesday. Though most of the shops refrained from displaying the sachets, there was no check on the sale. Sources, however said, that the administration was geared up to enforce the ban in the city as soon as a formal directive comes. “We have identified seven/eight factories functioning in Lucknow. We will seal the units besides ensuring that gutkha is not sold in the market,” an official said.
The manufacturing and sale of gutkha is a major source of revenue for both UP’s commercial tax department and the central excise department. According to a rough estimate, in Lucknow alone, at least one lakh people earn their bread and butter from manufacture and sale of gutkha.