Gutka made me a widow. What about my right to livelihood?
To the Editors of prominent national & regional dailies in various states & cities
13 October 2012, Mumbai
Despite our protests, your esteemed dailies continue to carry front-page advertisements issued by gutka barons who can afford to pay Rs 30 lakhs for a single insertion in your newspapers. These gutka barons who live in luxurious mansions are crying wolf about the welfare of poor tobacco farmers, factory workers, gutka vendors etc. Sir, on behalf of lakhs of women whose husbands were died of cancer because of gutka addiction, and who cannot afford to issue such grand advertisements, I ask: what about the livelihood of women such as myself who are helpless in the face of the death of their husbands and bread-winners?
About 50 gutka barons are systematically murdering the husbands and breadwinners of lakhs of women like me every year for their own gain. They are actively spreading addiction among our husbands and sons. And now, to escape the ban imposed by 15 states, they whip up public sentiments by shedding crocodile tears about the poor farmers, workers and vendors, whom they exploit decade after decade.
My husband Satish Pednekar died of oral cancer in 2011 at the age of 60, because of his habit of chewing tobacco and pan masala (mawa masala). He was a great man — Maharashtra’s former home and labour minister. He was also a good husband and a wonderful father to our daughters. He had been keeping ill since 2007. His lengthy struggle against cancer ruined us financially and emotionally. Please look at the attached photos of me when my husband was by my side, Sir, and see my happiness. The gutka barons talk about fairness… and therefore I ask you: Is this fair? Tell me what I did to deserve my present grief and bereavement?
Will the gutka barons kindly tell me why they took away my breadwinner, my husband, my life? Will the gutka barons kindly issue an advertisement telling my daughters how sorry they are for depriving them of their father? What about my right to life and livelihood? What about the right of my daughters to have the protection of their father? Why are your newspapers silent about these? Why are you reluctant to publish the true stories of the victims of tobacco?
I cherish these photographs, and I cherish the good times we all had with Satish. I am sharing my treasured possessions with you in the earnest hope that they will help you see the light. This series of ads that you persist in publishing is not just a dishonest attempt to justify what cannot be justified. No, it is worse; it is like a slap on the face to me, and to lakhs of women who are in my position. These ads are like a thorn in our eyes!
Sir, please stop insulting us by publishing such blatant ads. In the name of humanity, please stop.
Sumitra S Pednekar