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More than 2,00,000 tobacco traders and retailers in Odisha have opposed a move by the Union health ministry to limit them from selling non-tobacco products. The ministry is said to have issued letters to the chief secretaries of states to ensure that tobacco retailers are not allowed to sell any non-tobacco product. "We have learnt from media reports about the arbitrary letter issued to chief secretaries of states by the Union health ministry. The suggestion by the ministry is grossly unfair and draconian.
The ministry has neither consulted the small retailers nor taken their interests in mind before writing such a letter, ” said Dukhishyam Mohapatra, general secretary, Bhubaneswar Khili Pan Dokania Mahasangha, a body representing the voice of tobacco traders and retailers.He warned that if the suggestion is not rolled back, the body would escalate its stir to Delhi. “We are in touch with our counterparts in other states and will launch a concerted protest if the Centre enforces its suggestion. The assumption that minors might buy tobacco products at our stores is misplaced as all our members strictly follow the government rule that bars sale of tobacco products to minors”, he added. Srinibas Reddy, president of the association said they would appeal to the Prime Minister to intervene in the matter so as to save the micro retailers from the life threatening suggestion. This move is against the Government’s promise of ‘Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas’ and would have a mass-scale destructive effect on peaceful jobs and livelihoods, he felt.