Even as the Health Department officials are going about implementing the ban on sale of gutka and paan masala that came into effect on May 31, hundreds of gutka traders staged a protest here Monday demanding time from the State government to clear their existing stock.
The traders, who assembled under the banner of the South-Karnataka Zarda, Pan Masala and General Merchants’ Association, wore black armbands and said they were not given prior notification on the ban. K.K. Muhammad Gayazuddin, president of the association, said traders were not against the ban, but only wanted time to sell their stock. He added that members of the association “merely” wanted buffer time of one month to sell their stock and pay off their debts.
The shop owners who hold large stocks of gutka and paan masala said they would face huge losses if the ban is implemented immediately. Anil Kumar, General Manager of Pan Parag India Ltd., said, “We understand that the government ban is binding on us; we are not fighting the ban itself. However, when other States introduced the ban, retailers were given one to six months to get rid of their existing stock. Why can’t Karnataka allow the same?”
Jayesh Chande, a gutka shop owner, added, “If the government does not give us time to clear stocks, the retailers whose gutka sales are their bread and butter will incur huge losses. Most owners store gutka worth Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 1 lakh.”
Meanwhile, Jaikumar, Deputy Director, Food Safety, said the Health Department would not oblige the request of gutka sellers or manufacturers. “The enforcement of the ban was with immediate effect from May 31. We have already started ceasing gutka stocks and warning shops that still have gutka stocks. We also plan to start booking cases shortly.”