Anti-tobacco activists have welcomed the government's likely move to divest stake in ITC.
"This is a good move and in complete consonance with the government's stated intent of tobacco control. We really appreciate government's efforts in that direction and pledge our full support to it in this noble cause," said Dr Rajendra Badwe, Director, Tata Memorial Centre and member of Coalition Against Tobacco.
On Friday a section of media reported that the finance ministry is considering divesting stake in ITC. Government owns 32 per cent stake in ITC through five public sector insurance companies and Specified Undertaking of Unit Trust of India (SUUTI).
The government's move comes in the back of a public interest litigation in Bombay High Court questioning Life Insurance Corporation's share holding in ITC, the largest manufacturer of cigarettes in the country.
The PIL was filed by Sumitra Pednekar, wife of former Maharashtra minister Satish Pednekar, who died of oral cancer in 2011. It questions the government's contradictory policy on tobacco. The court has made government ministries and Security and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) parties to the petition.
"Tobacco can not in any way be seen to be contributing positively to the society. The government's move is truly pioneering one especially considering that government will forgoing huge amounts in dividends from these companies," said Sumitra Pednekar.