A surgeon from Tata Memorial Cancer Hospital has written to Narendra Modi stating that while he connected to paanwallas having proposed his name, he fell short of taking a stronger stand on tobacco sold by the same people.
Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, head and neck surgeon at the hospital, along with NGOs, is working to ban tobacco sale. He had written to the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) to include prohibition of political parties from receiving donations and other favours from the tobacco industry as part of the model code of conduct.
Dr Chaturvedi said, "Modi had shown extreme courage in banning gutka in Gujarat despite massive resistance from the gutka lobby. We hope he overcomes the greed of one lakh votes to save the lives of 10 lakh Indians, who die every year because of tobacco."
Dr Chaturvedi has written several letters to the CEC and state election commissioners (SEC) to prohibit political parties from accepting donations from the tobacco lobby. "Only the Punjab, Delhi and Himachal Pradesh SECs replied to us and forwarded our representation to CEC. No reply has come from the CEC yet," said Dr Chaturvedi.
As per the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (2009-2010) conducted on behalf of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, 48 per cent of men and over 20 per cent women consume tobacco products in India. The high rate of consumption of tobacco leads to more than 10 lakh deaths every year in the country.
As per the survey, nearly 2.6 crore Maharashtrians consume tobacco in some form or the other. One-third of them will be diseased by serious illnesses such as cancer, heart diseases, lung cancers etc. and will die premature deaths.
"Several studies conducted in India and abroad suggest that the powerful tobacco industry that includes transnational corporations use various tactics, including financial donations and other favours, to influence political parties and elected representatives in order to derail public health policies," said Chaturvedi.
The doctors working in the field of cancer have been relentlessly requesting political parties to include tobacco control in their manifesto. However, they say that no party is even talking about tobacco even though it is the biggest health problem in India.