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Gutka ban to stay, Karnataka govt rejects BJP demand to revoke it

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Bengaluru:

                                                     Karnataka government on Tuesday said the ban imposed on gutka would stay, rejecting the demand of the opposition BJP which argued that the move would hit arecanut growers in the state.

At the end of a debate on the issue in the state Assembly, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said revoking the May 30 government notification would only benefit the gutka lobby and would not help the cause of curbing cancer cases.

The ban is as per the Supreme Court order, he said, denying that it was a hasty decision. The government had no other option but to impose the ban. As many as 23 States and five Union Territories have taken similar step.

Seeking to allay concerns of the growers, he said the decline of price of arecanut was only marginal. Government would extend them support if the prices crash, he assured.

BJP floor leader and former Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar said government has not come out with any specific roadmap to find solutions to growers’ woes and announced that BJP members would stage a walk-out in protest, at which time Speaker Kagodu Thimmappa adjourned the House for the day.

Earlier, BJP members, who spoke in the House, demanded immediate withdrawal of the Government notification, asserting that it would hit arecanut growers.

Shettar charged the Government with having taken a hasty decision without pondering over its implication on arecanut farmers, and sought its withdrawal till the problems of the growers are addressed. Shettar, who raised the issue along with some BJP members, said Government should have held discussions with legislators from arecanut growing areas, before issuing the notification.

Visweshwara Hegde Kageri (BJP) noted that Karnataka accounts for 60 per cent of the country’s arecanut production and maintained that there is nothing to suggest that arecanut is harmful to health.

Kageri, a former Minister who hails from Uttara Kannada district, a key producer of arecanut, alleged that a ‘powerful lobby’ is behind the government’s decision which he termed as ‘unilateral’ and ‘dictatorial’. What’s needed is removal of harmful substances such as tobacco and nicotine from gutka.

Former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa (Karnataka Janatha Paksha) demanded that Government announce a support price for arecanut and reimburse the balance amount in case the price falls below that. “We are not against the ban on gutka.The government should first make an alternative mechanism for growers. Then they can decide on banning gutka”, he said.

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Despite ban in 23 states, illegal gutkha sale rampant; FDA seizures on

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Although gutkha has been banned in 23 Indian states, its illegal sale continues. Moreover, it is now sold at much higher rates. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Maharashtra recently seized gutkha worth Rs 27 lakh from Navi Mumbai.

Its counterpart in Uttar Pradesh followed suit, raiding a adulterated gutkha factory in the Barra area of Kanpur. About Rs 20 lakh worth of raw material, besides machines and other things which are used to make the products were seized from the place. Six people named Ravi Jaiswal, Hari Shankar Gupta, Bablu, Arvind and Rahul Jaiswal were nabbed from the premises.

The rampant illegal sale of gutkha in these states highlights the fact that the implementation of the ban is not strict. It is often seen that on long-distance trains, packets of gutkha worth Rs 2 are sold at Rs 10. There is no one to check the sale of illegal gutkha on the trains.

Mahesh Zagade, commissioner, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Maharashtra, said, “Maharashtra is the only state in the country to destroy gutkha worth Rs 10 crore. In other states, the implementation has not been done strictly. The seizure of gutkha worth Rs 27 lakh on the Sion-Panvel highway confirms that the contraband is still being sold in the market.”

He informed, “This was the third big seizure of the contraband in two months on the highway. It is believed that the contraband is generally transported from Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal and sold here at four or five times the price.”

Gutkha has been banned in Bihar for a year now, but it is still sold there illegally without any action against the culprits. In fact, it was the third state in the country to ban the sale, distribution and manufacture of gutkha and pan masala containing nicotine.

However, while the administration gears up to put a system in place to effectively implement the order, these products are still being sold in a clandestine manner in the state.

Sanjay Kumar, food safety commissioner and health secretary, Bihar FDA, said, “The implementation is not being followed strictly because of the shortage of manpower. But soon, there would be 22 state food safety officers and teams with police personnel as members would be formed. They would conduct raids in their respective areas across the state to stop both the organised and unorganised sector from manufacturing, storing, selling or distributing pan masala and gutkha.”

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20,000 gutka sachets seized

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BANGALORE: Two days after the gutka ban in Karnataka was enforced, health and family welfare department officials conducted a raid in the city.
The team seized over 20,000 sachets from a wholesale dealer in City Market area on Tuesday afternoon. "No complaint has been filed against the dealer so far. On Wednesday, we will brief the court on the seizure," said Basavaraj Huded, designated officer of the health and family welfare department, Bangalore South, for implementation of Food Safety and Standards Act 2006.
Before this, the team visited a production unit in Singasandra where they only found raw materials and packaging material. "We can’t seize raw materials like cardamom, betel nut and tobacco. But we seized the packing material. The packing machines have been sealed by the central exercise department. The premises was shut down voluntarily by the proprietor on May 30," said officials.
As of now, the seized material has been stored in one of the departments’ offices, but there are no clear guidelines on how to go about destroying the seized products. "As per Pollution Control Board norms, we are not supposed to burn the tobacco products. On Wednesday, we will be seeking legal opinion on this," Dr Basavaraj said.

Categories: NEWS