After BJP PM candidate Mr. Modi’s consideration to have a “Pan walla” as the proposer in Varanasi, Dr. Pankaj writes to him: “I hope you will be able to overcome the greed of one lac votes to save the lives of 10 lac Indians who die every year because of tobacco.” Below is the letter Dr. Pankaj wrote to Mr. Modi. — Editor
Respected Shri Narendra Modi Ji
Honorable CM of Gujarat
Sir, I am a Professor and Cancer Surgeon in a premier government run cancer center in Mumbai. I see hundreds of people suffering from cancers every day. I was dismayed to read a news report that you are considering to have a “Pan walla” as the proposer in Varanasi. Talking to a leading newspaper, chief of local election campaign committee Ashok Dhawan said, “Anyone can be the proposer from paanwallah and chaiwallah to senior party leader or any other respectable person. The party will take a decision shortly.” The article further mentioned – “ Considering a paan wallah as Modi’s proposer is being regarded as a tactical move to consolidate Chaurasia vote bank, comprising of over one lakh voters”.
Most people consume Pan with Zarda (tobacco) and Supari that are well proven cancer causing substances. Gutka is a combination of zarda and supari. Pan Masala is flavoured supari. Twenty nine states in India have banned Gutka, 7 states banned flavoured tobacco and Maharashtra banned flavoured supari / tobacco apart from Gutka. Unfortunately, the industry and vendors are openly flouting this ban and continue to sell these killer products ( in a new avtar) to innocent Indians especially kids. Having a Pan wallah as your proposer will send a wrong signal in India and abroad?
An NGO published a survey that 80% of tobacco shops are near the educational institution in violation of the tobacco control Law. Mumbai High court recently passed an order to enforce this law strictly. Vast majority of the tobacco shops violate a law that mandates display of a graphic warning at the point of sale. Such violations are rampant in Varanasi and most of India. This violation is a shrewd marketing strategy to recruit kids as new consumers for tobacco that kills every third user prematurely. Sir, we need your blessings and support to end this menace.
Two days back a publication in a leading journal painted a very grim picture that two fifth of India’s all cancers are related to tobacco. Currently, tobacco kills 10 lac people every year and 3300 people every day. It is the commonest cause of preventable death amongst youth. You showed extreme courage in banning Gutka in Gujarat despite massive resistance of the Gutka lobby. On September 10, 2012, addressing a rally in Mehasana you urged people to wipe out Congress in the state. “We should work towards “Congress-free Gujarat” on the lines of “gutka-free Gujarat” to wipe out “cancer” you said as per news paper reports. Despite your announcement of a comprehensive ban, Gutka is freely available in hitherto different form. Who are selling these lethal mouth fresheners? Who are violating your ban of Gutka?
India has the dubious distinction of having world’s highest incidence of oral cancer in the world owing to rampant tobacco chewing habit? Government has embarked on an ambitious National Tobacco Control Program as per its commitment to WHO and United Nations. Is it justified to have a tobacco seller as your proposer? Respected Sir, such a decision will undermine your personal commitment for a “cancer” free society.
Apart from causing cancer, heart attack etc, Pan is indeed a source of nuisance for the environment. India has a bad reputation of being a country of ‘spitters”. The stains of Pan spits are common findings all over India. It is time that we end this ugly practice from our country.
Respected Sir, I hope you will be able to overcome the greed of one lac votes to save the lives of 10 lac Indians who die every year because of tobacco.
With warmest personal regards,
Dr. Pankaj Chaturvedi
Professor, Head and Neck Surgeon
Tata Memorial Hospital, Parel, Mumbai, INDIA