Sunday 19 May 2019

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Tobacco ban bill in a dock

 

If the tobacco lobby is really strong, then the Goa Smoking and Spitting (prohibition) bill may be referred back to the Goa assembly for reconsideration, on the issue of totally banning promotion and advertising of all tobacco related products.

Pending assent from the governor, the bill is presently being referred to the president of India as it clashes with the guidelines laid down in the central legislation regarding advertising. It was otherwise unanimously passed by the Goa Assembly three months ago.

Though the House was unanimous on banning any kind of advertising or promoting tobacco products besides its consumption in public places, the government then suggested to the governor to get presidential assent for it.

A similar kind of legislation passed by the Delhi government has already been given assent by the president. But the Goa bill is a step forward from Delhi, as far as the provisions in terms of promotion and advertising are concerned.

The Delhi bill bans only notices, circulars, wall papers, pamphlets, displays, hoarding or visible representation of any light, sound or gas etc, while the Goa bill bans advertising even in the form of writing instruments, stickers, symbols, colours, logos, trade marks, displaying it on t shirts, shoes, sportswear, caps, carry bags, telephone booths etc.

The tobacco institute of India has already objected to such extreme measures, claiming that it would adversely affect the tourist traffic Goa attracts while the hotels and restaurants would go out of business, resulting in lay offs and making hundreds of people jobless.

"The assent is delayed because of the increasing pressure from the tobacco lobby", alleges Dr Sharad Vaidya, chairman of the national organisation for tobacco eradication. He holds Dr G C Srivastava, the Goa chief secretary, responsible for it, recalling that he had served as tobacco lobby in the past as the secretary of Indian council for agriculture research.

Though he denies lobby politics, Dr Srivastava justifies his stand on the issue. "It's impractical when satellite channels and periodicals from outside Goa, advertising tobacco products, are in circulation here", he feels. He was also instrumental in deleting the clause related to advertising earlier, which the select committee included in it once again.

Dr P C Alexander, the Maharashtra governor also looking after Goa affairs, says he had no option when the government suggests him to refer it to the president. "But I have refused to meet the delegation of TII on the issue", he clarifies while reserving his opinion on the issue.

If the government did not succeed in getting the provisions dropped, the intention seems to be delaying the assent at least till December as one of the India-Sri Lanka cricket match in the series is slated to be played in Goa on 28 December while the chairman of the Goa cricket association is one minister.

This makes amply clear that the Goa government is playing a dubious role in the matter while it has to be seen what stand the 40 legislators take if the bill is referred back to the assembly. The winter session would begin on 18 December.






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