Bhubaneswar, Jan. 10: Retailers of gutka and other tobacco products today staged a protest rally on Mahatma Gandhi Marg near the Assembly, demanding time to sell their stock products before the ban is implemented.
A retailer from Panikoili, Girija Sharma, said he had purchased gutkha and paan masala worth Rs 1 lakh in December. “The government should give us one or two months to sell our stocks. Then we will fully co-operate with them,” said Sharma.
According to the notification, the violators will be liable to pay a penalty of up to Rs 10 lakh or imprisonment of up to six years. The authorities had also declared compensation for those dying because of consumption of gutka and paan masala along with those having taken ill.
Another protester said they would submit a memorandum to the chief minister to give them some time before implementing the ban. Many of them depend on the sale of tobacco products and the sudden ban will cause them financial loss. “We do not oppose the ban. But, the government must think about us. We will definitely co-operate with the authorities in implementing the ban,” he said.
State health secretary Pradipta Mohapatra said: “Let them present their problems. The government may reconsider the issue.”
However, despite ban on the tobacco products, many shops in Bhubaneswar have been seen secretly selling gutkha and paan masala. “We have been hiding the sachets and when a known customer approaches us we provide them,” said a paan shop owner near Master Canteen Square.