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No ifs & butts, cops must act

- Home ministry seeks monthly record of steps taken to curb tobacco use

Ranchi, May 25: Jharkhand police can no more cite manpower crunch or workload as an excuse to avoid stubbing out cigarettes or ignore any matter related to anti-tobacco rules enshrined in the COTPA (Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act), 2003.

The Union ministry of home affairs has made it mandatory for every state police department to discuss their achievements in terms of implementation of COTPA during monthly crime meetings and record the findings, exactly the way other crime control measures are reported.

Monthly data from every state will subsequently go to the Union home and health ministries.

Following the Centre’s directive last week, state director-general of police (DGP) Rajeev Kumar’s office is learnt to have shot off letters to superintendents of police (SPs) in all the 24 districts.

DGP Kumar couldn’t recall the exact date when he received the missive, but said he had forwarded the same to the state police’s CID wing. “The CID may have marked it. I can give you the details only tomorrow,” he added.

Ranchi senior superintendent of police (SSP) Prabhat Kumar confirmed that they had received directives from the state police headquarters recently.

“The COTPA will now be discussed at our monthly crime review meeting. All police stations have been given instructions accordingly,” the SSP added.

Under the anti-tobacco act, smoking in public places — except designated zones in hotels, offices, pubs, etc — is strictly prohibited.

Further, Section 6(B) of the COTPA bans sale and consumption of tobacco products within 100 yards of hospitals, educational institutions and other public buildings.

Nonetheless, in reality, Jharkhand, including capital Ranchi, paints a sorry picture as far as execution of anti-tobacco rules is concerned. Be it a hospital or an institute, people flout the law at will with police turning a blind eye to the rampant violation.

Forget education institutions and hospitals, gross violations of tobacco rules happen almost in every police station area of the state capital. For example, a tobacco shop right next to the gate of Lalpur thana hosts hundreds of puff and gutkha addicts daily.

The tobacco act empowers every police officer of or above the rank of sub-inspector to impose fines and penalties on the spot.

Officials of the state food or drug administration under the health department can also take action against offenders, but few take any initiative to curb the menace.

The Ranchi SSP conceded the problems, but stressed that there would be visible change very soon.

“At times, during our routine meetings, we do discuss COTPA, but honestly it isn’t a regular affair. But now, we will crack down on illegal tobacco shops and fine violators on our own since we are now bound to be more vigilant and proactive,” he said.


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