Leaders allege cigarette lobby to be behind the push for prohibition

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday threatened to launch a State-wide agitation if the government failed to prevail upon the Union government to withdraw “its move to ban areca nut”.

Addressing party workers at a demonstration in front of the office of the Deputy Commissioner, the party leaders took objection to the State government withdrawing its impleading petition in favour of areca nut growers in a case pending before the Supreme Court.

The leaders alleged a cigarette lobby was behind the move to ban areca nut as sales of a cigarette major had been badly hit.

Mangalore MP Nalin Kumar Kateel said a letter written by the Director of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to the Director of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (on September 6, 2013) made the impending ban on areca nut clear. The letter referred to said, “…examine the scientific evidences on the harmful effects of areca nut with a view to take action to classify areca nut as an injurious substance and accordingly prohibit its use as ingredient in any food product…”.

The former Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda said the State government withdrew the impleading petition on October 22 through an order. He, along with K. Pratap Simha Nayak, president of the Dakshina Kannada unit of the BJP, said the government had also withdrawn the panel of advocates appointed to argue in favour of areca nut growers.

The case before the court in fact pertained to banning gutkha in which areca nut was a major ingredient. Mr. Nayak said the impleading petition argued against ban on areca nut, but did not support gutkha. Mr. Gowda said the government should explain why it had withdrawn the petition and the panel of advocates.

No written order’

Araga Jnanendra, president, State Farmers’ Morcha of the BJP, said the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Gulam Nabi Azad in Bangalore on December 27 said the Centre has decided to rethink the proposed ban on areca nut, but his office has not issued a statement to this effect in writing.

Mr. Gowda said the economy of Mangalore was dependent on areca nut cultivation. If areca nut was banned traders would have no business, he said.

Earlier the party workers took out a procession from Amedkar Circle to the venue of demonstration.

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