With the state government seemingly committed to implement the ban on gutkha from April 1, all eyes are on the Supreme Court’s orders on two separate writ petitions — for and against the ban — lined up on the same day.
The officials of Food Safety and Drug Administration (FDA), the department, which has to bring the ban into effect across the state, said their plan of action would certainly be subject to the Apex court’s order. Only if the court permits, the government can go ahead with the ban. And in case of a stay order, FDA would need to review its action.
“The government had already issued a notification of the ban on October 4, 2012, which still stands. But there are two writs lined up in SC on April 1 - one in favour of the ban, another against it. We will obviously have to go by the SC orders,” Pravir Kumar, principal secretary FDA told HT.
Though Kumar refused to comment on the preparations for enforcing the ban, sources said the department is all geared up for the big task as it predicts a verdict in its favour. The FDA has constituted state and district level teams to confiscate stocks of gutkha with wholesalers and retailers, they added.
“The department is bracing up for the task. After Holi, imposing this ban would be the next job for us. Even senior FDA officials have been on their toes for the past many days,” said an FDA official. Vigilance and intelligence units have already been formed who would act as and when directed, he added. Officials of the FDA, commercial tax and health departments also held a meeting to finalise the action plan to stop sale of gutkha.
More than 20 states and four union territories have already banned the sale of gutkha. However, Uttar Pradesh is taking its own time. While issuing the ban order in October 2012, the government gave six months’ time to gutkha manufacturers so that lakhs of employees and labourers engaged in the long existing industry could find alternative employment.
“The manufacturers have already been given six months to rehabilitate their workers and prepare for the ban. The government must keep its words now. More importantly, it has become a health issue as gutkha is sold as a food product,” said Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay award winner and activist associated with ‘Vote for Health’ campaign.