Notwithstanding the mass demonstration that was held by the Bhubaneswar Khili Pana Dokani Mahasangha on Friday in Bhubaneswar, the government still has not made any amendments to the new directive on ban of sale of non-tobacco products at shops selling tobacco products. The retailers threaten to turn the demonstration into a massive protest if the government does not roll back on its decision or provide them with other alternatives.
Nearly 1000 micro retailers and betel vendors had held a mass demonstration on Friday in Bhubaneswar, protesting against the ban on sale of tobacco products at these shops in the state. The Bhubaneswar Khili Pana Dokani Mahasangha, representing the interests of more than two lakhs traders, retailers and paanwallas, selling tobacco products across Odisha, led the protest against the new circular issued by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
As part of the new directive regarding the sale of tobacco, the Ministry has asked all the state governments to develop a mechanism to be implemented through the respective municipal authority to regulate the retail outlets selling tobacco products. Shops authorised to sell tobacco products will not be permitted to sell any non-tobacco products such as biscuits, toffees and chips that are essentially meant for non-tobacco users, especially children. However, majority of the retailers deal in all of the products. Restricting the sale of either of the products would have a huge impact on their business.
Dukhi Shyam Mohapatra, General Secretary of Khili Pana Dokani Mahasangha, Bhubaneswar told MCL,“Most us belong to lower middle income families with barely any educational background. Even, there aren’t any schemes in place for our benefit. We are left with few other options but to become betel vendors to manage our livelihood. The government has now started to interfere with our business too without providing us with any alternative.”
“We will not tolerate this anymore. The government has to withdraw or make some alternate provision for us, or our demonstration will get more massive in coming days,” he further added.
With more than 4000 retailers involved in betel vending, this circular might affect their businesses. Although the state government has not yet taken any action on this regulation, the association members have already started their movement against it.