'Ban cigarette, beedi, liquor first'

Areca growers and traders in the district have strongly opposed the State government’s decision to ban the manufacture and sale of gutka and pan masala.

Konkody Padmanabha, President of the Central Arecanut and Cocoa Marketing and Processing Co-operative (CAMPCO) Limited, said that the decision was taken “in a hurry”. “The ban will put areca nut growers to hardship. We will do our best to stabilise the prices of arecanut. The ban will not affect the prices of white arecanut (chali).

It may just have a temporary impact on the prices of red arecanut,” he said, recalling that the Union government had tried to stabilise the price of areca nut by imposing import duty on it.

The All India Arecanut Growers’ Association also opposed the ban. Its president, Manchi Srinivas Achar said: “The government is wrong in banning gutka. The ban will affect more than 30 lakh farmers who depend on arecanut for a livelihood.

If the Supreme Court and the government had any concern for public health, they should have banned beedi, cigarette and liquor,” he said. “There is no harm in chewing arecanut. It’s only the chemicals used in the manufacture of gutka that is harmful to health. Indians have been using arecanut for generations.”

Arecanut grower Savanoor Seetharam Rai said that the ban would slightly reduce the prices of arecanut, thereby affecting farmers. “Instead of the ban, the government should have created awareness on the harmful effects of gutka consumption,” Rai said.

Meanwhile, the BJP’s Mangalore district unit flayed the proposed ban and warned of an agitation if it was not withdrawn. “The government is playing with the lives of arecanut growers. It’s wrong to impose the ban without even looking at the alternative crops for the growers,” Padmanabha Kottari, the party’s district president, said.

Meanwhile, shopkeepers say they are unaware of the proposed ban. “If it’s true, what should we do with the present stock? We have paid a lot to buy it and will suffer losses if it remains unsold,” Razzaq, a shopkeeper, said.

“It may be small money for the government, but a fortune for us.” Another shopkeeper said that most of his customers bought either gutka or cigarette.

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