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October 30, 2012 Welcome Gutka ban…

Gujarat has become gutka free from today. A government notification banning sale and storage of gutka comes in force from today. As leader of the party which started a campaign against gutka in 1997-98, I am really very happy and welcome the move. Personally I am very pleased at this because for the last ten years or so I have been actively campaigning against gutka. In this one decade I have attended numerous programmes relating to de addiction and “no to gutka”.

However, going by the past experience, I have my own fears about the success of the measure. The way the Chief Minister is campaigning the gutkha ban, it has more political and publicity hues than the spirit of a social campaign for the betterment of the society.

I distinctly remember how vociferous campaign Congress had launched for ban on gutkha in 1997-98. Our student leader Manish Doshi and others had a consistent programme focusing on this great social problem and plea for ban on gutkha. This forced Narendra Modi government to come out with a notification banning sale of gutkha near schools. That was in 2003. In the same year Congress brought a private member bill demanding a law against gutkha on the pattern of Maharashtra.

Everyone knows what happened to the notification. It remained on paper only and this provided good stuff to media to come out with stories about sale of gutka periodically. Some of my friends in media jokingly remark that this is an evergreen subject where we can have right from a photo story to an in depth story on the laxity of ban on gutkha sale near schools and its harmful effect on younger generation.

What I really want to stress is that just a ban with punishment of six month and a provision of fine of Rs five lakh is not enough to check the gutka monster. It must be implemented in real spirit and reinforced with a strong social campaign against it. Just advertisements showing towering photograph of Chief Minister and text giving credit to him for the ban announcement should be buried in files in the secretariat.

For all purposes it is now past, announcement is part of history from September 11.What we need is a strong social campaign involving NGOs and others to really drive home the point. Persuasively and convincingly telling teenagers and youth what gutka is and why they should not become prey of the habit of gutka. We must involve different religious groups which have played a vital role in de-addiction.

Politically, we stand on the other side. But this is the issue we extend all support to the government to root out the evil of gutka addiction. It is good that such a measure is now associated with India’s great spiritual leader Swami Vivekananda. But it will be better if the government sincerely and in a committed manner takes the notification to its meaningful conclusion-gutka free Gujarat society. This will be an honest show of commitment to Vivekananda whose name Narendra Modi often encashes for his petty political gains.
I have all faith in the intelligence and ability of the Chief Minister. My problem with him is that he is not serious about real development of Gujarat and all his intelligence and ability is unidirectional. It is to fulfill his insatiable megalomaniac spirit. I think he has enough of this through all kind of publicity gimmicks and he should really think in terms of Gujarat and its development.

Today it is a known fact that Gujarat is lagging behind many states in Human Development Index. Measures like gutka ban can make Gujarat healthier and help it improve its poor HDI.

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