Agitation against pictorial warning on tobacco products

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Hyderabad, Oct 27 (UNI) Beedi workers, Tobacco farmers and retailers today resolved to fight against the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government's directive to implement 'pictorial warnings' on tobacco products from December this year.

Briefing newspersons on the resolutions adopted at a Conference of Beedi workers, tobacco farmers and retailers here, Federation of Farmers Associations Chairman P Chengai Reddy said as many as 35 million people in the country were directly or indirectly eking out a livelihood from tobacco sector.

The conference opined that the Centre should first ensure alternative employment to farmers, farm workers, tendu leaf pluckers and beedi workers before implementing the pictorial warning of body of a deceased person instead of the originally-envisaged skull and bones logo.

The government's role should be limited only to awareness building.

Even before the Group of Union Ministers, constituted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, could examine the impact of pictorial warnings and suggest appropriate measures to protect the livelihood of lakhs of beedi workers and farmers, the Union Health Ministry had come out with the directive, he lamented.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi had asked the previous Vajpayee Government to provide alternative employment to beedi workers, tendu leaf pluckers and farmers before implementing the Tobacco Bill, 2003, the conference recalled.

The World Health Organisation's International Framework Convention for Tobacco Control guidelines for pictorial warnings were not as severe as those proposed to be implemented by Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramdoss.

The conference pointed out that no tobacco-producing country in the world had such stringent norms, given the huge impact on loss of livelihood for poor and marginal farmers.

On the one hand, several progressive laws were enacted by the Centre from time to time to protect the labourers while another arm of the Government was bent upon taking away their livelihood, Mr Reddy added.


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