Tobacco growers and retailers stages protest outside the Health Ministry
New Delhi, October 27: Over a thousand tobacco growers and retailers on Thursday staged a protest outside the Health Ministry and South Asian Office of the World Health Organisation here.
The farmers were upset as they have been denied participation in the upcoming (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Conference of Parties (FCTC COP7), scheduled to be hosted by India this year in Noida from November 7-12.
The protestors comprised tobacco growers and retailers from states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, among others.
They have urged the government to boycott the WHO conference as it is likely to adversely affect the tobacco farming sector that contributes over Rs 10,000 crore to the government’s revenue annually.
According to them, if they are not allowed to participate, core issues such as increasing counterfeit bidi trade in the country after the implementation of 85 per cent pictorial warning will go ignored.
Also, they won’t get a chance to discuss with the government for the alternate crop, as the stricter government norms against tobacco have dealt a heavy economic loss to them.
“We call upon the government, in its capacity as hosts to the upcoming FCTC conference, to uphold Indian Tobacco Farmers respect and the country’s democracy and boycott the conference,” B.V. Javare Gowda, President, Federation of All India Farmers Association (FAIFA), told IANS.
As a representative of the tobacco farmers in India, FAIFA has applied to the WHO FCTC secretariat seeking observer status in the FCTC COP7.
When contacted on the issue, WHO told IANS that FCTC is an independent body and the decision to let anyone participate in the conference is up to them.
Also, according to the FCTC and its guidelines, no country should have delegation members linked to the tobacco industry.
The nation’s main cigarette industry body, the Tobacco Institute of India (TII), and farmer groups wrote to the Agriculture Ministry demanding that their views should be presented in the WHO conference.