New Delhi/Jaipur, In an unprecedented initiative, people from different walks of society have come forward urging Prime Minister to stand against the powerful tobacco lobby. Last week a group of 653 doctors and Presidents of various medical societies had petitioned the PMO for implementing 85% warning on all tobacco products from 1st April.
UT Khader, Health & Family Welfare Minister, Karnataka wrote to the Union Health Minister expressing his dismay about the recent recommendation put forward by the committee on Subordinate Legislation. The letter reads, “It is every consumer right to know this fact and government duty to create such awareness among consumers in order to protect their lives as a right to health. While it is imperative that the government takes every step to protect the farmers and labourers working in this industry, it stands to fact that we cannot ignore the lakhs of people who die of diseases each year in this country due to tobacco consumption. It is every consumer right to know this fact and government duty to create such awareness among consumers in order to protect their lives as a right to health.”
The Allahabad High Court Bar Association wrote a touching letter to the Prime Minister with a copy to Union Health and Family Welfare Minister to implement 85% pictorial pack warning on all tobacco products as already notified. The High Court Bar Association President, Sh. Radha Kant Ojha said, "We felt very proud when your Government issued a notification 2 years back to make large pictorial warnings mandatory on every tobacco product. It was the need of the hour in a country where tobacco consumption starts at tender age of 10-12 years. Needless to say that effective pictorial warning will also deter uneducated people from picking up this habit. Such strong warnings are known to provoke the tobacco users to quit this habit.
Umesh Singh, a senior Advocate with Allahabad High Court said, "We feel dismayed that there are attempts by supporters of tobacco lobby to subvert the implementation of the new notification from 1st April 2016. "
Ashok Kumar Singh, Honorary Secretary of the Bar association said, “Nearly 10 lac Indians die every year due to tobacco consumption and it not only affects those consuming it but also people around. How can government give more importance to right to livelihood over Right to life that is enshrined in the constitution?”
Five widows of former tobacco users have also written to Prime Minister as their only hope to rein in the tobacco lobby that is literally a factory that is producing millions of widows, orphans and bereaved parents.
Sumitra Pednekar, wife and widow of former Home and Labor Minister of Maharashtra said, “I am shocked to hear that a parliamentary panel has once again stalled the implementation of the pictorial warning from 1st April 2016. Modi Ji I am a live example in front of you whose family has gone through so much because of this tobacco.”
Renu, a 45-year-old widow from Jaipur says, “my life came to a standstill when I lost my husband in 2008 to cancer which was due to tobacco consumption. It is now difficult to raise the family. Children are studying in Govt. school now. A father’s absence is always felt in children. Today when I see anybody using Gutka or cigarette, I shiver because I suffered the consequences. I wish these larger pack warnings were there when my husband started using tobacco during his childhood.”
Rehana, a 46-year-old widow from Kota, Rajasthan lost her husband in 2011. My husband was a taxi driver. His diagnosis of cancer led to destruction of our family. I had to sell my gold ornaments for his treatment. Now, I work to raise 3 children of mine. He was the only bread earner.” The letter from widows to PM reads - “We were aghast to read in the newspapers that the parliamentary committee has given more importance to loss of livelihood than loss of lives of innocent Indians, one of which is my husband. How many more widows will this country make because of tobacco? Government must take wise decision to save Indians from tobacco than recommendations made by such a committee.