The state government on Wednesday announced a ban on the gutkha industry, a major source of revenue, in Uttar Pradesh with effect from the next financial year.
The decision comes nearly 15 days after the high court asked it to submit a report on as to what steps it had taken to ban gutkha in view of the Centre's Food Safety Act.
"A decision has been taken to ban the gutkha industry in Uttar Pradesh only from Apil 1, 2013 so that lakhs of employees engaged in the long-existing industry can find alternative employment," said a government spokesman in a press statement.
While hearing a public interest litigation (PIL), the Allahabad high court had on September 19, asked the state government to file a report on October 10, stating as to what steps it had taken to enforce the Central government's August 5, 2011 directions to the states to prohibit sale and distribution of gutkha and other food products containing tobacco as an ingredient.
Though more than half-a-dozen states have enforced the centre's directions in the interest of public health, Uttar Pradesh had been avoiding putting a ban on gutkha so far.
The government's apprehension was that a ban on the sale of gutkha would deprive several lakh people of direct or indirect employment besides depriving it of handsome revenue, said sources.
The manufacturing and sale of gutkha is a major source of revenue for both the state's commercial tax department and the Central excise department. While Uttar Pradesh earned over Rs. 300 crore revenue from the sale of gutkha in 2011-12, the Central excise earned Rs. 318 crore excise duty from its manufacture in the Lucknow zone alone comprising 17 districts during the same year.
Uttar Pradesh accounts for the maximum oral cancer cases, largely due to chewing tobacco products like gutkha, according to doctors.