News and Update
Anti-Tobacco Campaign: Kwant Villagers Raze Gutkha Shops
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24 May 2010
By Debarati Basu
After raiding local liquor shops in Kwant taluka, Bhekhadia villagers have now started closing down shops selling gutkha packets in a bid to control the spiralling thefts in the village. Sources said youths had resorted to stealing money and food articles from their home to pay for their cigarettes and gutkha.
The agitation had started a few months ago when a group of women in the village had protested against the menace of youth stealing maize from their own household to buy tobacco.
After the matter was raised, people joined hands and have
decided to raze the tobacco selling shops in the locality.
“This is like trading gold for drugs. If they don’t have money, the boys steal a packet of maize, which is almost a kilogram, and exchange it for 10 to 20 packets of padiki (tobacco packets),” said Deena Rathwa, a villager.
The villagers recently forced eight makeshift provision stores in the village to stop selling gutkha packets.
“It’s is a challenge for us. We have been able to pass the resolution in the gram panchayat meeting recently, but some of the panchayat members are not very keen on it. We have also had opposition from the villagers and the shop owners who have threatened us not to interfere in their work,” said Ratan Bhagat, a villager, and coordinator of NGO Shramik Vikas Sansthan.
Besides imparting awareness in schools and public meetings in the village, small groups have been constituted in the village to keep a check on the consumption trend too.
“We have formed a youth committee dedicated to the cause. We are also taking help of women in the village, who help in spreading the awareness. But even the panchayat members try to suppress our voice, as not many are supportive. We are just trying to bring in a difference,” said Vadesinh Rathwa, a tempo driver in the village.
Radusinh Rathwa, deputy sarpanch of Bhekhadia village, said: “It’s difficult to make a person suddenly leave an old habit.
Some of the panchayat members are against it. It will take some time. Now, people do not consume gutkha in public.”