It was a decision executed on April 1. But nobody had thought it to be a decision taken in zest then. Intentions of the state government appeared to be genuine. For some time, there was some hype over gutkha ban.
But now, the ban on tobacco-laced gutkha appears to be a zest played on April 1, 2012 and then forgotten. In fact, the ban has turned out to be counter-productive as people used to gutkha chewing have no problem finding them but shopkeepers have an excuse to sell the product at double price.
Besides, the government must also be losing crores of tax, which would have accrued to its account if gutkha sale had not been illegal.
In one year of 'gutkha ban', gutkha pouches earlier selling for Re 1 are being sold for Rs 4 or 5. Moreover, customers don't get small pouches which were available in the pre-gutkha ban days and they have to purchase larger quantity of gutkha and obviously they end up consuming more gutkha and therefore, tobacco.
Officials of food and drugs department claim that they have seized around one crore gutkha pouches in Madhya Pradesh after the ban but this number is hardly anything if compared with the daily consumption of gutkha pouches in Bhopal. It has been estimated that around 10 lakh gutkha pouches are consumed in Bhopal every day.
The stated motive of health department behind gutkha ban in the state was to reduce cases of oral cancer. However, figures of Cancer Registry of Bhopal suggest that the incidence of mouth cancer is constantly rising in the city.
The licenses of seven gutka companies of the state have been cancelled to effectively enforce the ban but there is not a single company, whose products are not available in the market.
Food safety officer DK Verma said more than one crore gutkha pouches were seized in the state in the past one year. He said food and drugs department was working hard to stop the sale of gutkha pouches in the state.
He further said the gutkha pouches sold in Madhya Pradesh were manufactured in Uttar Pradesh but after gutkha ban was imposed in UP, sale of pouches have reduced in the state also.
Renowned oncologist Dr Shyam Agarwal said the gutkha ban of the health department was not at all effective. Introducing gutkha ban in the state has only increased the profit of gutkha sellers, he added. Only government and common people were in loss because of this ban, Dr Agarwal said.
According to Food Safety and Standards Act, if any person is found selling gutkha, penalty of Rs 25,000 would be charged and a case would be registered under Food Security and Standard Assessment Act. However, till now, hardly any gutkha sellers have been punished and registered under this Act.
In charge, chief medical and health officer (CMHO), Dr Upendra Dubey said from Friday, health department officials will be visiting schools and colleges to find out whether tobacco products were sold in nearby areas or not. If somebody is found selling or advertising tobacco products, he/she would be charged with penalty.