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Alternative crops for tobacco-cultivating farmers?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014
By A Staff Reporter

Discussion likely to take place in a meeting called by Union health minister with Agriculture and Commerce ministers

As livelihood of farmers cultivating tobacco has always been a question whenever talks of tobacco control measures are initiated, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has recently written a letter to Agriculture and Commerce Ministers for a joint meeting on October 29 to discuss the issue of alternative crops, as an initiative to see to it that interests of the tobacco-cultivating farmers are protected.

The letter states that although the Government of India has ratified World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and is committed to implement effective strategies for tobacco control in the country and as per Article 17 of FCTC, there have to be provisions of support for economically viable alternative activities.

Voice of Tobacco Victims (VoTV), which is an initiative led by victims to sensitise law and policy makers about the dangers of extensive tobacco usage, tobacco industry activities, lack of stringent action against tobacco companies and growing plight of victims across the country and is run by Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai and Healis – Sekhsaria Institute of Public Health, Navi Mumbai, applauds this move from the government.

Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, a senior cancer surgeon from Tata Memorial Hospital at Parel in Mumbai who is also involved with VoTV said, “In India, around one million new cancer cases are diagnosed and around 6,00,000 to 7,00,000 people die from cancer. In a recent report of April 2014, around two-fifths – 40 per cent of all cancers in India are attributable to tobacco use and the economic costs of illness and premature death due to tobacco consumption exceed combined government and state expenditure and state expenditure on medical and public health, water supply and sanitation. Now, India is also known as the oral cancer capital of the world.”

“The patients we treat are a constant reminder that tobacco is deadly in both cigarette and smokeless forms and it is high time that alternatives must be thought of before more lives are lost. Planning on alternatives to tobacco crops is definitely a way forward,” added Dr Chaturvedi.

According to Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS-India), 27.5 crore people use some form of tobacco in India and every day, 5,500 children start to use tobacco in some or the other form in our country.

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