Jorhat, Nov. 23: The Jorhat district tobacco control cell is planning to use the Raas Leela festival here from November 27 as a platform for its anti-tobacco campaign.
The nodal officer of the tobacco cell, Bhaktimoy Bhattacharjee, who is also the district senior medical health officer, told this correspondent that the cell has decided to carry out the campaign during the festival days in Majuli.
He said there is heavy rush of visitors from across the state to the river island just like during the Durga Puja, to be part of the festivities in the xatras (Vaishnavite monasteries) and in public places by social organisations for several days, though the main festival is for three days.
“We want to carry out the awareness drive during the Raas celebrations which has been observed in a colourful way and on a grand scale for over 150 years in the island by staging plays on the life of Lord Krishna that sometimes go on through the whole night,” the officer said.
Apart from the 20 xatras, raas performances are organised in another 50 public places that include community halls and pandals. Bhattacharjee said they would put up banners, posters, hoardings carrying messages on discarding tobacco consumption on the xatra premises and at pandals where raas performances will be staged.
The nodal officer said the organisers have agreed to screen 10-minute video films on ill effects of tobacco and its related products before the start of a raas performance. Bhattacharjee said they have also decided to give awards to three best organisers on the quality of poster and banners on discarding tobacco, as was done during Durga Puja.
The cell has also requested xatras to contribute to the campaign since the consumption of tobacco in religious and social functions is part of the tradition.
Earlier this year, Dakhinpat Xatra, one of the oldest xatras on the island, was declared tobacco-free. Charaibahi Higher Secondary School on the outskirts of Jorhat was the first school in the state to be declared tobacco-free in September 2009.
Altogether 61 educational institutions have been declared tobacco-free in the district so far.
Since last year, the cell has collected Rs 12,000 by the way of fines imposed for violation of Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003, with even one commissioner-rank officer being fined for smoking inside the Jorhat circuit house.