Leisure, Lifestyle & Wellness
Evils of Tobacco! Only by grit, firm belief and determination one can give it up!

According to doctors and researchers, more than 40 carcinogenic chemicals with an additional 3,960 chemicals are mixed to get the desired effect in gutka with tobacco. Can we ask the manufacturers to export their entire production? After all, many may have taken a resolution on this World No Tobacco Day

Every year, six million people die all over the world due to tobacco use, in any form. It is estimated that another 10% die due to second-hand exposure to smoking. These figures are not reliable but based on statistical evidence collected of recorded deaths.


Both these occur in spite of greater exposure to education and continuous campaigns.  To prevent this, use and sale of tobacco is banned within 100 metre radius of any educational institution as prevention is better than cure and yet, shopkeepers sell these products just outside the banned area with impunity.


The World No Tobacco Day—31st May—witnessed various programmes to create the awareness, all over the world, and, unlike most of the western countries, tobacco consumption is increasing in India due to chewing of betel leaf and the use of gutka with tobacco, and inhaling of fine mesh tobacco as snuff. Though this habit is slowing dying, thankfully, because it is felt to be dirty and not fashionable. Most of the hard working labour class use tobacco as a stress buster and even women chew tobacco in rural areas. The cheaper cousin of cigarettes, the beedi, its Indian poor cousin, is also consumed on a large scale, with a belief that it is less harmful than cigarettes! Beedi making is a cottage industry in the country, employing thousands of households.


Karnataka was the 25th member of the Indian Union to bring the ban on gutka from 31st May. This ban covers all forms of gutka, whether it contains tobacco, nicotine or any other such stimulant.


In most institutions, smoking is prohibited.  In fact, in many countries, smoking is banned in public places.  Most restaurants are smoke-free, though some provide separate enclosed areas for the addicts. But, strangely, outside the restaurants, pan shops sell both cigarettes and gutka; and some of the pans made with special ‘zarda’ or tobacco are very expensive and sought after, by the customers who have had a great enjoyable meal!


It is difficult to pin-point where and when one acquires this habit, but it begins mostly with children copying their elders and film idols. Even here, if and when such a scene occurs in a movie, a by-line appears to warn the viewer: “smoking is injurious to health”; product packages also carry this warning, which is mandatory. New movies may say a word or two about gutka, if the Censors insist on this!


So, passive smoking occurs at home and in group gathering when someone smokes, and out of courtesy, nobody objects.  But, as for gutka, it affects none other than the consumer unless it is shared with another.


Gutka can be made with or without tobacco. It is basically formed from areca nut, slaked lime, paraffin and katechu. According to doctors and researchers, more than 40 carcinogenic chemicals with an additional 3960 chemicals are mixed to get the desired effect in gutka with tobacco. In fact, this is considered more harmful than cigarettes by this community. Dr J Dixit at HCG Cancer Care Centre has stated that this must be banned without a second thought.


In 2003, COPTA—Cigarette and Other Tobacco Control Act—was passed which has prescribed a total ban on all forms of promotions, advertising and sponsorship.  But, somehow, promoters tend to violate the law though indirect and or surrogate advertisements, making enforcements a difficult proposition.


For, everywhere, there is always a “smokers’ corner” and in the case of gutka, it is easy to carry in small sachets, being bought and sold with impunity. This total ban will only help in smuggled gutka, unless there is a total ban in the manufacture itself.


Sixty percent of the areca nut production in India comes from Karnataka, with other producers like Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, etc. In the wake of this ban in Karnataka, BJP, which had ruled this state for the last few years, has come out in favour of permitting the sale of tobacco-free gutka, as areca nut is a local crop, and will put thousands of people in the jobless status. In any case, areca nut is imperative when pan is made with betel leaves, which is a very traditional item in Hindu households.  It is not that other communities do not use betel leaves, but the use is predominantly by the majority.


Why not set up a time frame to ensure that tobacco use through gutka, snuff, etc is totally banned in the country?  As for manufactured product like cigarette, cigar, etc a total ban is unlikely because of the revenue that government gets and millions of people are employed directly or indirectly. Can we forget our morals and say that the manufacturers of these products must export the entire production or give them a sliding scale by which, year after year, a reduced percentage of the total production is made available for indigenous consumption? Even a glorified export version of beedi (with filter, etc) is made and sold abroad!


But, in the meantime, can we ask the readers of Moneylife, and this article, if they are one of those, who responded to the call of the government, and have given up smoking or using gutka with tobacco, or both? After all, many may have taken a resolution on this World No Tobacco Day?


(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)




4 years ago

Unfortunately in India despite the government at the center knowing the serious damage to humans that Gutkas cause, the policy makers and law makers keep pulling punches since a decade.There is so much cash in this trade that the public feels it must only be millions that are being paid to the right people to avoid total bans. The ridiculous attempt to curb gutka consumption by banning plastic pouches was a non starter from day one. WE now have gutkas sol in coated paper pouches. Unless there is a strong will to protect human lives of Indians and the cancer deaths right from the top in Delhi , gutkas will keep killing thousands as reported in several medical journals. GOD save India.

Dipak Chatterjee

4 years ago



4 years ago

I know a way to get free of tobacco that is not so painful or arduous. It is also free. I would love to have the chance to share it with your readers. Thank you for drawing attention to this vital, global concern. Joanna Cummings of Kick Butts, Take Names

RTI Judgement Series: Unqualified doctors employed in public hospitals

The CIC asked the principal secretary of Delhi's Health and Family Welfare department to specify if the department takes any action against unqualified doctors employed in public hospitals. This is the 105th in a series of important judgements given by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi that can be used or quoted in an RTI application

The Central Information Commission (CIC), while allowing an appeal, directed the principal secretary of the Health & Family Welfare (H&FW) department at the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD), to fix the responsibility for not revealing the orders of First Appellate Authority (FAA). The CIC also asked the principal secretary to specify whether the department takes any reasonable action when complaints are made about unqualified doctors being employed in public hospitals.


While giving this judgement on 23 July 2009, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner said, “It is really scandalous that in spite of clear knowledge that some contract doctors may not be qualified form any recognized institution, the H&FW department appears to be colluding in continuing this. This can be a major hazard for public health.”


Delhi resident MK Jain, on 2 June 2008 sought information regarding action taken against certain doctors who did not possess required educational qualifications, from the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the H&FW department. Here is the information he sought under the RTI (Right to Information) Act and the reply provided by the PIO...


1. Does a junior specialist working under the Govt of Delhi in various specialties require a degree/diploma recognized Medical Council of India? i.e. Medical Council of India recognition of a degree or diploma in various specialties is compulsory or not? 

PIO's reply:

(i). as per schedule 6 of CHS Rules for the appointment of specialist (non-teaching) the educational qualifications specify that the candidate for the post of specialist (non-teaching) must possess a recognized medical qualification, included in the first or second schedule or part II of the third schedule (other than licentiate qualifications) to the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, holders of educational qualifications included in part II of the third schedule should also fulfil the conditions stipulated Medical Council Act, 1956.

(ii)  Post graduate degree/diploma in the concerned specialty mentioned in Section-A or Section -B in schedule-IV or equivalent.

(iii) Three years’ experience in the concerned specialty after obtaining the post-graduate degree or five years’ experience after obtaining the post-graduate diploma.

Accordingly this office advertises the posts of Jr Specialists recently which is a practice adopted by the department for these posts.


2. If yes, then what is the fate of a junior specialist working in different hospitals under the Govt of Delhi without a medical council of India recognized degree/diploma if any?

PIO's reply: There is no such case in the knowledge of department. However, any specific case may be brought to the notice of this department.


Not satisfied with the PIO's reply, Jain filed his first appeal. In his order, the First Appellate Authority (FAA), said, “...However, irrespective of the issue whether PIO and additional secretary (H&FW) had replied to the appellant in response to a fresh application under Section 6 of RTI Act or suo-moto, she may furnish the clear information sought by the application viz. what action has been taken against Dr Shipra Rampal and Dr Amit Sharma against whom MK Jain informed to the Superintendent of H&FW that they did not possess the required recognized degree/diploma and other similarly situated persons, if any”.


Jain then approached the Commission with his second appeal in which he stated that he made a series of correspondent to the PIO concerned, but the information sought by him was not provided. “The reply given (by the PIO) was incomplete and not up to the satisfaction vide their reply no2578 dated 23 June 2008,” he said.


During the hearing before the bench of Mr Gandhi, the deemed PIO stated, that he has not complied with the direction of Rakesh Behari, the FAA and principal secretary of H&FW. The PIO and the deemed PIO both claimed that they were unaware of the order of the FAA and they discovered this order a day before the hearing.


The deemed PIO further stated that he had find out that no action has been taken in spite of very serious charge levied by Jain and the department was still enquiring whether the charges were correct are not.


The department has written to the secretary, Medical Council of India on 1 October 2008, 20 December 2008 and number of times subsequently the last letter was sent on 19 May 2009, the PIO stated.


He also produced a letter dated 31 October 2008 before the Commission. The letter stated, “Kindly refer to your letter noF2(406)/ Estt./  BJRHM/ Estt./ 07/ 5377 dated 31 October 2008, on the subject noted above, I am directed to inform you that MD (Radio-Diagnosis) qualification granted by Bundelkhand University in respect of students being trained by MLB Medical College, Jhansi is not recognized by the Council.”


The deemed PIO stated that since August 2008 various notings have been made by various people such as special secretary of H&FW, superintendent of H&FW and joint secretary of H&FW.


Mr Gandhi, the then CIC, noted that in spite of the categorical comment that the doctor working with the institution does not have a valid degree form a recognized institution, the authorities are claimed again of setting a continuous enquiry and not taking any action.


“...the claim of the PIO and deemed PIO that the order of the Principal Secretary was never revealed to them indicates the working of the department has been completely unstructured. It is indeed a very dangerous situation that the department does not have any system to ensure that order are known to various officers and in-spite of clear evidence that unqualified doctors are being let loss on citizens they appear to be colluding in this,” the CIC said.


While allowing the appeal, he then gave the copy of the file notings on this matter brought by deemed PIO to Jain.


The Commission directed the PIO to send the information to the appellant before 30 July 2009 indicating if any action has been taken or no action has been taken and also send a copy of this to the Commission.


Mr Gandhi, the CIC, also directed JP Singh, the principal secretary of H&FW department to enquire into this matter and send a report to the Commission before 15 August 2009. “This report will specify who was responsible for the FAA’s order not being revealed to the PIO and deemed PIO and whether the department takes any reasonable action when complaints are made about unqualified doctors being employed in public hospitals,” the CIC said in its order.



Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2009/001415/4238


Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2009/001415


Appellant                                        : MK Jain



Respondent                                    : Rashmi Krishnan

                                                            Public Information Officer,

                                                            Govt. of NCT of Delhi,

                                                            Health & Family Welfare Department,

                                                            9th Level, A-Wing, Delhi Secretariat,

                                                            IP Estate, New Delhi -110002


Manufacturing PMI moderates to a 50-month low in May

Overall, the PMI suggests the economy is in a weak growth/low inflation environment

India’s manufacturing PMI moderated to 50.1 in May from 51 in April. In Q2 (Apr-

May), the PMI has averaged 50.6 versus 53.1 in Q1, suggesting that the manufacturing growth momentum weakened early in Q2, dashing hopes of a recovery. The decline has been attributed to a slower pace of new work and continuing power outages.


Though the May reading was the lowest since March 2009, the overall index has held above the watershed 50 level that divides growth from contraction.


The output index fell into the sub-50 contraction zone, at 48.6. Export new orders picked up in May, but domestic new orders were weaker, data from a survey by Markit Economics and HSBC Bank showed.


Weak growth is reflected in falling prices, with both input and output prices lower this month. In fact, the output price index fell below 50 to 49.8, suggesting a sharp fall in core inflation ahead. Overall, the PMI suggests the economy is in a weak growth/low inflation environment.


Commenting on the India Manufacturing PMI survey, Leif Eskesen, chief economist for India & ASEAN at HSBC said: “Economic activity in the manufacturing sector slowed further in May as output contracted in response to softer domestic orders. In addition, power outages hampered output and led to a jump in backlogs of work as businesses struggled to meet orders. Inflation gauges also eased, and output prices even fell in sequential terms on the back of tougher competition and receding raw material prices. These numbers have heightened the probability that the RBI will fire another salvo at its June policy meeting.”


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