Pune: Though the state government banned gutka and paan masala a few days ago, MiD DAY has found that it is not difficult to get the tobacco products in the city. The ban came into force on July 20, and since then officials of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Pune division, have upped their efforts to prevent paan stall owners and wholesalers from storing, distributing or selling gutka and paan masala. In the past one week, products worth Rs 11 lakh were confiscated by FDA officials and samples sent for inspection.
To verify reports from the medical fraternity that gutka sachets were not difficult to get, MiD DAY visited several paan shops in 10 different localities across the city to find out the truth. It was found that most paan shops were selling gutka for almost double the maximum retail price (MRP) printed on the sachet. In Koregaon Park, a paan stall owner said a sachet of ‘Goa 1000’ with a printed price of Rs 3 would cost Rs 5, but he was willing to sell at the rate of Rs 4 in case of bulk purchase.
He said a box of 60 sachets that cost Rs 180 would be sold for Rs 240, and the deal was settled at the “discount” offered on the jacked-up price. In Hadapsar, a stall owner sold a sachet of ‘Vimal’ gutka with an MRP of Rs 5 for Rs 10. When asked if he had gutka, the stall owner first hesitated, then said that as there had been raids in the last two-three days he was storing the stuff in nearby places and fetching it only when a customer asked for it.
A stall owner in Camp said that he could arrange for a large quantity of gutka and promised regular supply in the future as well if needed. In Vimannagar, a stall owner said he would be able to sell gutka after 30 minutes as he was expecting a salesman by then. FDA Assistant Commissioner (Food) Dilip Sangat said paanwalas should understand the health risks of consumption of gutka by customers. He admitted it would take some time to implement the ban strictly.
“It is sad that these people (errant paan stall owners) don’t understand the gravity of the risk involved in consuming gutka,” Sangat said. “Though we are trying hard to strongly implement the ban, it will surely take us some time.”