Citizens' Issues
How tobacco victims are downing the shutters of the industry that sold them cancer

Voice of Tobacco Victims, a Navi Mumbai-based NGO, has brought India to the forefront in the war on cancer-causing tobacco, and is showing advocacy gurus worldwide the way to fight the war against cancer

Amidst all the dust and tumult of the anti-corruption movement that raged throughout the country, a massive victory for the people of India has quietly gone unnoticed. People may be wondering why state after state is banning gutka in 2012. Why is the political establishment slamming its doors in the face of the massively influential and moneyed tobacco lobby? While the magnitude of the havoc caused by tobacco has been a matter of public record for many decades, it was dimly understood by the decision-makers until the victims of tobacco themselves started confronting them with the grim reality.


India is struck by a disaster of tsunami or earthquake proportions every single day. Over 3,000 persons (mainly middle age) die on a daily basis. Strangely, nobody in the administration seemed to care until March 2012. Tobacco users are hugely prone to getting cancer, respiratory illness, heart attack, stroke, etc. Ten lakh smokers and tobacco-chewers die every year from these illnesses in India—50 times more than non-tobacco users. About one-third of India’s population is hooked to tobacco. Of India’s 42 crore tobacco addicts, only about 28 crore are adults. About 14 crore are aged below 18 years, and they typically pick up the tobacco habit in the 6th or 7th standard.


The Voice of Tobacco Victims (VOTV) has been a game-changer in pushing for a ban on chewable tobacco products. On 31 May 2008, a small group of 10 cancer patients met with oncologists and cancer researchers at Mumbai’s Tata Memorial Hospital and said, “This is what tobacco did to us, we now want to save others!” This meeting was widely reported.


The crusading tobacco victims personally appeared before the state assemblies of six states in 2011-12, viz. Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Five of these six states went on to ban gutka and chewable tobacco products and all those hiked taxes on tobacco products. VoTV members (as the crusading tobacco victims became known), backed by 17 leading cancer specialists in various states, have been cornering chief ministers, health ministers and other decision-makers to sign pledges to eradicate gutka, khaini etc. Following their efforts, the gutka ban has been implemented by 15 states so far (the ban in UP and Uttarakhand will come into effect every soon).


VOTV has brought India to the forefront in the war on cancer-causing tobacco, and is showing advocacy gurus worldwide the way to fight the war against cancer. VOTV will not allow victims like Satish Pednekar, Deepak Kumar and Shafique Shaikh (the lead actor in Malegaon Ka Superman) to become faceless statistics; it compels administrations and the public to remember that they are unique persons like you and I, with wives and children who love them. The campaign, spearheaded by Healis-Sekhsaria Institute of Public Health and Tata Memorial Hospital shows people in the administration the face of their voters and tax-payers, who are suffering due to their failure to ban tobacco and its products.


Read: National Cancer Awareness Day: Look out for the warning signs

Photos of Tobacco Victims sensitizing various state assemblies etc:


The so-called war on cancer is largely a war on promotion and sale of carcinogenic tobacco products. For decades, this war has been fought with dry statistics. NGOs, researchers and scientists have been the face of this war, while victims were used for generating statistics. And so, the profiteering tobacco companies has had it easy, hiding behind “lies, damned lies and statistics” about employment and tax revenue given by tobacco, and of course, their lofty CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives. No longer! Victims of every sort of tobacco usage will speak up, and rebut all the lies that are being spread by the profiteering tobacco industry. Having proven itself in India, the VOTV movement has spread to US, Russia, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Pakistan, where victims are now beginning to speak up.


In the world of public health advocacy, India has lit up a lamp, which now spread across the globe.


VOTV’s bottomline for terminal cancer victims: “Do not go gentle into that good night… Rage, rage against the dying of the light”—Dylan Thomas


For further details and contact details of the brains behind VOTV: Contact Krish 9821588114.

Voice of Tobacco Victims

A Campaign by Healis - Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health () in collaboration with Tata Memorial Hospital and other organizations



Sandeep Reddy Geetla

5 years ago

There should be "stop smoking" campaign than waging war over tobacco companies.Did anybody force you to amoke? You succumb to temptation of smoking at first place and then do riots against tobacco companies.Not fair.

Prima facie nexus in Aircel-Maxis deal involving Maran: SC

The apex court which perused two reports filed in a sealed cover by the CBI, has said that the allegations levelled and investigations prima facie indicates a nexus between former minister Dayanidhi Maran and a Malaysian businessman

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has said the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the allegations in Aircel-Maxis deal involving former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran and a Malaysian business tycoon "prima facie indicates a nexus", reports PTI.


A bench of justices GS Singhvi and KS Radhakrishnan, which perused two reports filed in a sealed cover by the CBI, said, "The allegations levelled and investigations prima facie indicates a nexus."


The CBI told the court that it has completed the domestic investigations into the deal but the overseas probe was being delayed due to the influence of the company's owner in Malaysia who is "powerful politically".


"We have completed the domestic probe and have to complete the investigation about the deal in Malaysia and Mauritius. Letters Rogatory have been sent to those countries.


"The gentleman in Malaysia who is involved in it is economically powerful and he is also powerful politically," the agency's counsel KK Venugopal submitted without taking any names.


The submission was made by Venugopal, who was reading the relevant portions of CBI's fresh progress report on its investigation into the 2G spectrum scam.


Maran has been accused of "forcing" Chennai-based telecom promoter C Sivasankaran to sell the stake in Aircel to a Malaysian firm Maxis Group in 2006 owned by Kuala Lumpur-based business tycoon T Ananda Krishnan.


The agency submitted that overseas probe was important to track the money trail as the funds for the deal had come through Mauritius.


"We have to go into the source of fund. Information is that the money came through Mauritius," the CBI counsel said adding that "we want to show the link on the source of money to show the quid-pro-quo involved in the deal."


When the bench wanted to know "why there was a delay in probe in Malaysia and Mauritius," the CBI said those countries are repeatedly seeking clarification on one or the other issues.


The bench also said if there was any effort by powerful or influential or CBI was working under any influence then "this must be stopped".


ED probing investment by Wal-Mart in Indian companies

According to a petition filed in the High Court, US retail giant Wal-Mart invested Rs455.80 crore in multi-brand retail in India by masquerading it as for 'Services Sector' before the policy for FDI in retail came into force

Chennai: The Union government has told the Madras High Court that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) was investigating the alleged investment of American retail giant Wal-Mart in Indian companies, in violation of the provisions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), reports PTI.


Petitioner T Vellayan, President of Federation of Tamil Nadu Traders Association, had earlier sought a direction to authorities to examine, investigate or consider investment by a subsidiary of multi-brand retail company Wal-Mart in two Indian firms in March-April 2010.


When the matter came up, Additional Solicitor General Wilson submitted that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has already referred the matter to the ED to conduct an investigation and the agency is now seized of the matter and as such the prayer had become infructuous.


Defence counsel B Kumar stated that it was only a routine procedure and no inquiry was ordered by the government.


He said it was only because of filing of the petition, the RBI initiated action and in case the plea is closed, the authorities would close the matter.


Counsel for the private companies contended that the petitioner had no locus standi in the issue.


A Division Bench comprising Justices R Banumathi and KK Sasidharan said the RBI's letter dated 2nd November, clearly indicated that the RBI had taken cognisance of the petition and another one filed against the FDI policy.


It said the Additional Solicitor General had submitted that the ED was seriously looking into the matter and conducting detailed investigation.


The bench said it was only directing the ASG to take instructions from the ED with regard to action taken pursuant to the letter sent by the RBI and the stage of investigation.


The matter was posted for 31st January next.


The PIL submitted the Union government had allowed FDI in multi-brand retail on 14th September before which it had been prohibited under FEMA, 1999, and Foreign Exchange Management (Transfer or Issue of Security by a person resident outside India) Regulations 2000.


It said in March and April this year, Wal-Mart Stores Inc, USA through its subsidiary, in collusion with two Indian firms, illegally invested Rs455.80 crore in multi-brand retail in India by masquerading it as for 'Services Sector.'


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