Tuesday 25 September 2018

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"Let beedi workers starve" : Anti-smoking front

 

The beedi workers as well as tobacco growers should find alternate avenues of earnings, feels National Organisation for Tobacco Eradication, while welcoming the Kerala high court’s landmark judgement banning smoking in public places.

In fact the NOTE is planning to file similar kind of public interest litigations in all the high courts as well as the Supreme Court. The Kerala high court has banned smoking in public places of all kind, ranging from educational institutes and hospitals to shops, restaurants and commercial establishments.

Dr Sharad Vaidya, Goa-based national chairman of NOTE, feels very little for the thousands of workers who may lose their job in beedi factories since the production would reduce tremendously. "Let them starve or readjust to changes taking place in the world with growing health consciousness", he shot back.

Citing his own example as a medical practitioner, Dr Vaidya argues that he cannot demand non-eradication of deadly disease like plague or malaria because it could make him jobless. On the contrary, he seems more concerned about two and a half thousand persons being killed every day in India due to unprecedented epidemic of tobacco-related disease.

The NOTE has also strongly protested the stand taken by the Confederation of Human Rights Organisation, requesting the Kerala government to put in abeyance the ban and give smokers time to quit the habit. "They are free to smoke in privacy without being fined", he points out.

Dr Vaidya appears pained with the inhuman stand adopted by CHRO when it should have kept in mind the plight of non-smokers whose rights have been clamped upon due to smoking in public places. "The world has changed, but we have not", he quips.

Though he totally disagrees that beedi workers in Kerala are uneducated and would have no place to shift over if made jobless, the NOTE chairman however agrees that the Kerala government should take responsibility of supporting them till they are provided with alternate earning.

The government is one third partner in cigarette industry while it also gives subsidy to the tobacco growers, in order to promote use of tobacco. "Does not it become their responsibility now to rehabilitate the farmers and beedi workers", he asks.

Such bans would also not put the tobacco farmers in trouble, says Dr Vaidya, since they could very well shift to other crop. In justification, he says the land under tobacco cultivation has reduced from five lakh hectares to four lakh hectares in a decade from 1984 to 1994 as research increased the yield. "No farmer died due to this", he says.

Dr Vaidya had managed to get a revolutionary legislation passed in the Goa Assembly two years ago, banning use of any tobacco product in public places. But it is still lying with the union home ministry, travelling between Delhi and Goa seeking clarifications on minor queries.

Besides planning to file PIL in the Goa bench of Mumbai high court, he has also announced that NOTE will launch country-wide awareness campaign in support of the Kerala high court judgement and encouraging citizens to file such PIL in all the states.






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