After the Bombay high court verdict that the ban on gutka and paan masala in the state be continued, the state Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorities will begin systematic destruction of the seized consignments, officials said.
Since July, gutka and paan masala packets worth more than Rs10 crore have been seized across the state by food inspectors after a state-wide ban on the manufacture and sale of these products was imposed. “Every lot that has been seized across districts in the state will be disposed of as per the rules under the Food Standards and Safety Act (FSSA), 2006. The destruction process has to be supervised by the district officers along with the civic bodies in each district. Before the disposal is initiated, due procedures have to be followed,” said state FDA commissioner Mahesh Zagade.
Zagade pointed out that products like scented supari sold separately, which can be mixed with tobacco to be constituted as gutka, is also being seized but authorities are not seizing pure chewing tobacco being sold by the vendors.
After the HC refused to stay the gutka ban, FDA authorities have swung into action to crackdown on the smuggling and peddling of tobacco-based products. “Of the 16,800 premises scrutinised across the state, 622 found hauling up gutka and paan masala were sealed,” said Zagade.
FDA officials have swooped down on wholesalers and warehouses in seven districts — Thane, Mumbai, Pune, Nasik, Amravati, Nagpur and Aurangabad. A majority of the stock, worth Rs4 crore, was seized from Thane. Pune and Mumbai follow closely, with seized consignments in each district believed to be worth more than Rs1.5 crore.
To curb the smuggling of gutka, the FDA has begun to rope in police and transport officials to monitor buses and trains entering the state from neighbouring states such as Gujarat and Karnataka. “Based on a tip-off received from the police, we seized a consignment worth Rs22 lakh from a train coming in from Gujarat when it pulled in at the Mumbai Central station last month,” Zagade said.
Of the 15 writ petitions filed by gutka and paan masala manufacturers against the state, the court rejected the plea of eight of them to stay the ban in case. Decision on the remaining seven are still pending.