Centre's stand on areca nut puts Congress in a fix

It is harmful to health, SC was told

Centre's stand on areca nut puts Congress in a fix

Congress leaders in the district are at a loss for words to defend the stand taken by the Union government on areca nut in the Supreme Court.

 

In a written submission on behalf of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in the matter of Ankur Gutkha company and Indian Asthma Society and others on October 4 this year, Indira Jaising, the Additional Solicitor General, quoted an experts committee as stating that consumption of areca nut was harmful to health. 

The committee was set up by the ministry in consultation with the National Institute of Health and Family Welfare in 2010, following the Supreme Court order to study the harmful effects of consumption of gutkha, tobacco, pan masala and similar articles. 

She also said that as per clause 2-4 of the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulations, 2011, “Tobacco and nicotine shall not be used as ingredient in any food product,” as they were “substances which may be injurious to health.” 

This stand of the Centre has turned out to be a “weapon” for the BJP which is leaving no stone unturned to use the areca nut issue to regain the lost ground in Shimoga district which is the largest producer of areca nut in the State. The party could not win a single seat in the district in the recent Assembly elections. 

Congress leaders from the district, including Legislative Assembly Speaker Kagodu Thimmappa and district In-charge Minister Kimmane Rathnakar, have been trying to reassure areca growers, saying the submission is “not the final order” of the court. 

Meanwhile, Congess workers, some of whom are areca growers, have been striving to get favourable reports from various research institutes to convince the court that areca nut is not injurious to health. Going by the present situation, the issue is likely to become the core subject in the Lok Sabha polls in the district. Prakash Kammaradi, agricultural scientist at the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, said that areca growers in the State were “in a predicament”. 

“When reputed institutes, including the World Health Organisation, opine that areca is injurious to health, the growers will find it difficult to challenge it as they are not medical experts. The Supreme Court will consider all these reports before passing the final order. Even agricultural scientists cannot do much about it as it is related to health,” he told Deccan Herald over phone. 

Doctors’ opinion would be final and seemingly indisputable in this regard. Areca nut, gutkha, pan masala have been banned in Maharashtra. The Centre has also asked the ministry concerned to collect further evidence of the “harmful effects” of areca nut.

 “These developments are not in favour of areca growers,” Kammaradi added. 

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