Move shocking, says Supriya Sule

Recalls father Sharad Pawar’s battle with cancer

Updated - November 16, 2021 06:59 pm IST

Published - April 01, 2015 03:25 am IST - NEW DELHI

When she talks of the consequences of tobacco consumption, Supriya Sule, Member of Parliament from Baramati, does not cite figures or quote studies; she slips into the shoes of a daughter to tell the story of her father Sharad Pawar’s 15-year-old battle with cancer.

“I have watched my father struggle with cancer. He’s been cancer free for years now, but every time we go for a review (health check-up), there is an uneasy feeling in my stomach,” said Ms. Sule, who has in the recent past been part of delegations that have called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Health Minister J.P. Nadda to push for legislation to control the use of tobacco.

Along with her Lok Sabha colleague Jay Panda (Biju Janata Dal), Ms. Sule has been in the forefront of the campaign to control tobacco use.

On Tuesday, she described the government’s decision to put on hold its earlier notification to increase pictorial warnings on tobacco packs from 40 per cent to 85 per cent from April 1 as both “shocking and unfortunate.”

“Tobacco control and cancer is way above politics,” she said, adding that political parties and governments cannot yield to “pressure from tobacco lobbies.”

On the need for increasing pictorial warnings on tobacco packs, she said: “There is a need to create awareness because everyone thinks ‘it won’t happen to me’.”

On the speculation that the government has succumbed to pressure from tobacco lobbies, she said: “There are lobbies the world over, but I don’t believe pressure exists. There was a lot of pressure from gutka lobbies too, but it was banned in States like Maharashtra and Rajasthan.”

Responding to how the ban on tobacco use will affect the farmers and women engaged in the sector, she said the government must consider skill development programmes to help them find gainful employment.

“We are not looking at a complete ban overnight, we should have alternative crop grown in phases. The Prime Minister speaks of skill development, we should think of creating alternative jobs,” she said.

In response to BJP MP Dilipkumar Gandhi’s comment on whether India has done its own survey to ascertain the link between cancer and tobacco, she referred to the death of former Maharashtra Minister R.R. Patil.

“He [Patil] was like an elder brother to me. We lost him to cancer. We lost a family [member].”

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