The sale of pan masala and tobacco has gone up in Uttar Pradesh several fold since manufacturing and sale of gutkha was banned in the state following Centre’s directive in keeping with the high court order.
Gutkha buffs are apparently purchasing pan masala and tobacco separately and then mixing and consuming the same to enjoy the taste of gutkha that contains these two ingredients.
The latest revenue figures available with the commercial tax department are a testimony to this fact. The government revenue (VAT) from pan masala increased from Rs. 4.5 crore in April and May during 2012-13 to Rs. 14 crore during the corresponding months of 2013-14 in the current fiscal. “The rise in tax collection from pan masala in the first two months of the current financial year is more than 200%,” a senior commercial tax department official revealed.
Similarly, the tax collection from tobacco went up by around 50% during the same period. The department got Rs. 4 crore from tobacco in April and May 2013-14 against Rs. 1.50 crore in the corresponding months of 2012-13. “We expect even more revenue from pan masala and tobacco in time to come as the sale of these two commodities is bound to increase further,” said the official.
Balram Maurya, general secretary of Lucknow Gutkha Pan Masala Manufacturers’ Association said: “In fact what has been banned in the state is only gutkha, which is basically a mixture of pan masala and tobacco, but there is no ban on tobacco and pan masala when manufactured or sold separately.” He further added: “Therefore, many people can now be seen purchasing pan masala and tobacco separately only to mix the two and get the taste of gutkha.”
Sources said that gutkha manufacturing units that stood closed since April were likely to start manufacturing of tobacco and pan masala separately in keeping with the gutkha addicts’ demands. “Some of them are already planning to seek fresh registration for the same with the Central Excise Department,” said sources.
To recall, Akhilesh Yadav was forced to ban gutkha in the state from April 1 after the Allahabad high court directed it to do so while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL). The PIL said the government was not implementing Centre’s directive even as consumption of gutkha was causing cancer and other diseases.
However, a commercial tax official hit the nail on the head when he said: Since there is no ban on tobacco and pan masala, gutkha addicts have found their own ways of mixing the two ingredients together and consume the same for the taste and impact of gutkha.’