Mumbai: In yet another attempt to curb the illegal sale of gutka and flavoured supari in Maharashtra, the Food and Drug Department (FDA) has written to the state transport department, seeking strict action against truck owners who ferry the illegal gutka across the state. A senior official said that if there were stringent provisions under the Transport Act, it would serve as a deterrent to gutka smugglers.
FDA officials said they had asked transport authorities to keep a vigilant eye on every truck passing through the state. “It is not possible for FDA to monitor each and every truck in which gutka and flavoured supari are being smuggled across the state. This is why we have sent a letter to the transport department asking it to take strict action against these trucks,” said Chandrashekhar Salunke, Joint Commissioner of Food, FDA.
Statistics show that in the last six years, the FDA has seized gutka worth Rs114.13 crore. Maharashtra tops in the consumption of paan masala and 43 per cent men and 19 per cent women consume gutka and tobacco products.
Although tobacco products are banned in the state, they are widely available despite raids, as they are being smuggled in from neighbouring states. “The gutka and flavoured supari is being manufactured in villages across the Maharashtra border in Karnataka. The modus operandi of truck drivers who transport this banned substance is to never use the same vehicle. They change trucks along the route and most often, it is difficult to detect the real smugglers,” said an official.
In 2012, the state government had banned gutka under the Food Standards and Safety Act, 2006. In the following year, the state banned khaini (flavoured tobacco), supari (processed betel nut) and mawa or kharra (a mix of processed tobacco, betel nut and lime). In 2014, the Maharashtra government issued a fresh notification banning gutka and extended it for another year, from July 20, 2015 onwards.