Traders continue to sell gutkha through back door

Koraput: With the state government banning manufacture and sale of gutkha across Odisha, traders seem to have adopted back door practices to continue their business in Koraput district.

While there is no gutkha manufacturing unit in Koraput district, the banned products are loaded onto buses at Berhampur for the district.

Prior to the ban, Jeypre remained the hub where the consignment was delivered and later distributed to other parts of Koraput, sources said adding after the ban, Semiliguda, about 40 km from Jeypore, has emerged as the new hub.

"Fearing police action, traders are now unloading gutkhas at Semiliguda and then dispatching these in small vehicles to different parts of the district", sources said. As per an estimate, sale of gutkha per day is pegged at Rs 5 lakh in the Koraput district.

Shopkeepers are also stealthily selling the products fearing raids.

"A packet of gutka priced at Re 1 is now being sold for Rs 5. Habitual chewers are ready to shell out more for their daily quota. At some places, shopkeepers are reluctant to sell gutkha to strangers to avoid action", said a Jeypore resident.

While police said they are yet to receive the notification and raids would be conducted accordingly, anti-tobacco activists said unless the ban order is strictly implemented, the prohibition on gutkha will hold no meaning.

"It's a welcome move but all depends on how well it is implemented. Frequent raids should be conducted to ensure that tobacco products are not sold in betel shops and tea stalls", said Premanendra Paricha, an anti-tobacco activist.

As per the government notification issued on Friday, manufacturer, storage, sale and distribution of gutka and paan masala have been prohibited. CDMOs, ADMOs and police officers not below the rank of sub-inspectors can conduct raids and penalise violators.

Collector (Koraput) Sachin Jadhav said, "The law will be implemented strictly and anyone found dealing with the banned product will not be spared. We will soon have a meeting with police in this regard".