Tamil Nadu govt gets cracking on illegal sale of gutka; plans heavy penalty on offenders | Chennai News – Times of India


CHENNAI: State health minister Ma Subramanian has given a two-month deadline to food safety officials to enforce the ban on sale of gutka and pan masala across Tamil Nadu. Officials will be given powers to seal shops and will be assisted by police and local administrators to achieve their goals, he said.
In May 2013, Tamil Nadu announced a ban on manufacture, storage and sale of gutka and pan masala. “Some time ago, 21 DMK MLAs took gutka packets to the floor of the assembly to show how it is easily available in Chennai. They were available even around the shops near the secretariat. The situation prevails even today,” he told officials in an open meeting called to address the illegal sale of gutka and pan masala in Tamil Nadu.
The consultation meeting had representatives from health, home, local administration department and Greater Chennai Corporation. “We have seized products and collected fines up to ₹30 crore in the last eight years. We may be able to do the same thing in just two months,” the minister said.
Most traders, he said, will stop selling the illegal goods if they are asked to pay a penalty. “If they continue with the illegal sale, officials can seal their shops,” he said. Food safety officials who make their district gutka-free will receive awards and those who don’t will be punished, he said. “We want the ban to be implemented in total,” he said.
Meanwhile, to create awareness programmes that will encourage people, particularly high risk groups such as students and migrant workers, from using the hazardous substances, the state will hold awareness meetings and install statutory warnings on billboards that display gory pictures depicting the health impact of tobacco. The state will also work with the education department to introduce ill-effects of tobacco through pictures in school text books, apart from meetings to inspire vendors to take an oath against the sale.
District health authorities must work with the health department and roll out a plan of action for enforcing the ban, he said. “We hear these products are smuggled into the state via Bengaluru through vegetable trucks. There may be many such routes. We must develop intelligence networks to prevent their entry,” he told officials.
The minister said he received at least 10 messages about localities where gutka is available, contacts of wholesale dealers and codewords used in the industry minutes after he called for the meeting on Tuesday. “I will forward them to the police. Meanwhile, members of the public can message such details to complaints cell on 944-402-322 ” he said.

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