FDA to man toll plazas on state border to check entry of gutka

To ensure the ban on gutka and paan masala is strictly enforced throughout the state, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans to deploy officials at all toll nakas so that no illegal transportation of these products takes place from neighbouring states.

The ban came into force on July 19 and the Pune division received the official communication on July 20. The notification bans the manufacturing, storage, distribution and sale of gutka and paan masala.

In the days following the ban, gutka and paan masala products worth Rs 9.70 lakh were confiscated and samples sent for inspection. “As of now, small stalls might have stock that will last for 10-12 days, and it’s after that that the real problem of black marketing and illegal transportation from neighbouring states like Goa, Karnataka and Gujarat will start,” Joint Commissioner (Food), FDA Pune, Shashikant Kekare said. “Therefore, we plan to keep a check at all toll nakas on the state boundary and have also asked the octroi officials to be vigilant and inspect vehicles.”

Police assistance
Kekare said police assistance would be sought as and when required. “We are a team of 13 food safety officials (FSOs) of the FDA, 13 FSOs of the Pune Municipal Corporation and six FSOs from Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation, two assistant commissioners and a joint commissioner, but assistance from the police will be sought whenever required,” he said. “We are also planning to conduct meetings of wholesalers across the city and the secretary of the paan stall owner’s association on Thursday to warn them and also seek their cooperation.”

Assistant Commissioner (Food) Dilip Sangat said only a countrywide ban would be the real solution. “It is not sufficient to ban gutka and similar products containing tobacco, nicotine and magnesium carbonate in a few states,” Sangat said. “The Centre should ban the production of such stuff throughout the country to bring about an effective change. Otherwise, there will be inter-state trafficking.”

In case of violations, the government has decided to press for long prison terms and fines up to Rs 10 lakh by invoking the stringent provisions of the Food and Security Standards Act, 2006. Even small paan shops, hawkers, petty sellers found selling gutka or paan masala can be fined up to Rs 25,000. If the seller fails to comply with the directions of the FSO, then a fine of up to Rs 2 lakh can be imposed.

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