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The threat of gutka

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The evil-effects of consuming nicotine-laced pan masala, gutka and chewing of tobacco are well-known yet our adults are not ready to oust the habit. Smokeless tobacco-related cancers and diseases are alarmingly high. The harmful health effects of smokeless tobacco are far greater than that of smoking. The Sindh High Court has directed police to start a crackdown to restrict the threat of gutka and mainpuri in the province and also include a provision of the Pakistan Penal Code for causing hurt by means of a poison in the FIRs until new legislation is put in place. The SHC also regretted that directives were issued to provincial authorities time and again in many petitions to make legislation to fix sum of punishment about manufacture and sale of such threatening items, but in spite the expiry of a substantial period, the observance had so far not been made in form and content. In a detailed order, the SHC asks IGP to take action against policemen involved in the unlawful business. One of the purposes of fixing punishment is always that of creating a feeling of fear. This has been the cause of which legislation was asked for. Despite time span of substantial period, have only been shown to have been processed. It further mentioned that if the seriousness of an issue required urgent legislation then the duty of legislatures become twice as much in prompt legislation, preventing any pointless delay. The bench observed that administration of justice also demanded more from the law enforcement agency and courts and directed the inspector general of police to ask all the SHOs, through their SSPs, that Section 337-J of the PPC would be inserted in all the FIRs until new legislation was made. The court also issued a directive to take action against those police officials involved in this unlawful business. The SHC had ruled that the current laws with regard to the punishment for manufacturing and selling gutka and mainpuri should be increased as culprits involved in such crimes were being booked under the British- time laws and set free after imposing minor penalties.
Despite the fact the police continue their action against production, sale and purchase of gutka and other inferior chewable tobacco-based items across Sindh, authorities at their jurisdiction have found that an important part of their own force is dependent to the damaging substances. This has compelled them to go for collecting details about the exact number of such “addicted” law-enforcers at least in Karachi before envisioning a plan to handle the situation. Senior officials in all seven districts of the Karachi police’s organizational structure acknowledged that a large number of their men were involved in the injurious activity. In addition those who undergone commando training has likewise been concerned to be involved in consuming the injurious substance even during duty hours. The Sindh police officially launched a campaign against sale and production of gutka and other substandard chewable tobacco-based products across the province and seized above one tonne of the threatening items in a month. The action is still going on with the same spirit leading to the arrests of hundreds of gutka producers and sellers in the province A senior police officer acknowledges that many cops consume harmful tobacco-based item. A large number of those arrested in Karachi are those selling such products in spite of a government ban. They have been booked in cases under Sections 269 (careless act likely to scatter infection of disease dangerous to life) and 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease hazardous to life) of the Pakistan Penal Code. In spite of the threat for over two years, hunting sellers, confiscating huge quantities of injurious substances and smashing huge production facilities to establish the writ of the state, policemen themselves have increasingly being involved in consuming gutka and other associated products. A good number of police are using such products. Additional Inspector General, Karachi have even notified and issued warnings against the use of such products at least during duty hours but apparently it is not being listened. To solve this problem, heads of police are planning to conduct a survey, or carry out a kind of inquiry to identify the number of addicted people and initiate measures to solve that. Health professionals have voiced grave concerns over the growing use of risk products across the province and warn that the situation is so frightening that it has become a major source of oral cancer among males. They also question the indifferent efforts of the authorities to ban this profitable business.
Voicing serious anger over the performance of police to restrain the threat of gutka and mainpuri, the Sindh High Court on Wednesday said that the paramilitary Rangers can independently take action against smugglers and manufacturers of the dangerous items to assist the police in their crackdown. It was also observed that the Pakistan Coast Guards should also make sure strict action against the smugglers. The bench ordered the inspector general of police to hold an inquiry into the accusation that police were not showing a large part of seized gutka in their record and to call explanation from all SHOs relating to continuity of manufacturing and sale of such harmful items in their jurisdictions. The court also voiced disappointment at provincial authorities for delay in making legislation to fix the quantum of punishment for selling and manufacturing gutka and mainpuri. The SHC asked IGP to call explanation from all SHOs regarding continuity of sale of risk items in their areas. The doctor in charge of the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre’s cancer department, filed a report in court stating that a total of 18,614 cancer patients were treated at the JMPC during the last five years and out of them 9,453 were suffering from mouth cancer. Betel nuts were also one of the reasons of causing cancer and the provincial authorities may be directed to impose a ban and such items may also be made part of the legislation. The bench directed the health department to make legislation keeping in view the opinion of the doctors. One of the respondents’ lawyers submitted that the raw material for preparation of such risky items was being smuggled into Pakistan and the law-enforcing agencies should be asked to hinder the smuggling. The bench in its order further said that the Pakistan Coast Guards must also guarantee that strict action was taken against such smugglers. The court was informed during the proceedings that around 17,000 tonnes of gutka, mawa and other articles were seized by the police, but only 6,000 tonnes were allegedly shown in the record.