Voice of Tobacco Victims writes to Anna Hazare: “Rescue us from Tobacco-industry related corruption”
Shri Anna Hazare
Subject: While other forms of corruption makes us poorer, corruption in Tobacco is killing 1 million Indian every year and many of them are young!
We, the victims of corrupt practices of many Ministers of this Government, write to you to extend our support and to thank you for your worthy endeavour towards purging the society and the Government of corruption. We’re survivors of cancers caused by tobacco, who are with you in your struggle to ensure that the Government is run by people who don’t harbour and promote private interests at the cost of public interests. In India, we lose 1 million lives every year to the use of tobacco, which is a habit that is picked up at a very early age in the absence of any clear warnings about its detrimental health effects.
Pictorial warnings, which are an important provision of our tobacco control law, Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003 (COTPA) were first notified in July, 2006. These were to be implemented by Feb, 2007 but were delayed and diluted numerous times by a Group of Ministers (GOM) with known tobacco industry interests. It took a Supreme Court judgment to enforce this provision in 2009. As per law, the pictorial warnings are to be changed every year but a GOM with known tobacco interests have been repeatedly delaying its implementation.
A recent RTI makes clear that this Group, comprises of Pranab Mukherjee, who comes from a bidi rolling constituency; Praful Patel, who is a known bidi king and has made millions by selling death to young consumers in the form of bidis; Jaipal Reddy has an experience of over two decades of fighting for tobacco issues. This group has been intervening in a health related area, which is not part of their mandate to serve their own tobacco interests. Abhishek Manu Singhvi (Congress Rajya Sabha member) is in the payroll of Gutka/Pan Masala industry, Arun Jaitly ( BJP leader of opposition in Rajya sabha) is a lawyer of Indian Tobacco Company. There are several MPs and MLAs who directly and indirectly patronize this sinful industry. Tobacco Companies offer huge sums of money to the election funds of political parties. Government makes laws that are favorable to the tobacco Industry rather than the public. Moreover, law enforcing agency turn a blind eye to violations of anti-tobacco laws for obvious reasons. Rather than discouraging tobacco industry, GOI conferred highest civilian award to the Chairman of a leading cigarette company in year 2011.
We urge you, Annaji, to fight this battle against corruption on our behalf. We urge you, to fight this battle against merchants of death. We urge you, to fight this battle for a healthier India. We urge you, to take up the issue of pictorial warnings with the Government and ask them to not delay its implementation any further. You’re our lone saviour.
We hope that you will not disappoint us and help us in saving the lives of many like us.