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Paanwallas hire women to sell gutkha

A bottleneck on the road towards effective implementation of the ban on gutkha that had so far remained under wraps — literally — has now been uncovered. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials say paan shop owners are now using female aides to sell the prohibited product.


Illustration / Amit Bandre. Hide and seek: When a customer approaches a vendor for gutkha, the latter collects the money and diverts the client towards the woman concealing the product

When a customer approaches a vendor for gutkha, the latter collects the money and diverts the client towards the woman concealing the product

In a singular modus operandi, the women hide the gutkha packets in the folds of their saris, producing one — like a rabbit out of a hat — for a customer on getting the vendors’ nod.

“I witnessed this a couple of times some months ago. The lady would supply gutkha to a purchaser after getting a signal from the paan stall owner. Since there is no direct exchange of money between the woman and the patron, it is difficult to take any action,” said Shashikant Kekare, joint commissioner (food), FDA, Pune.


Chew on that! Gutkha of various brands seized by FDA officials in the city. File Pic

How it works
According to officials, when a new customer approaches a vendor for gutkha, the latter collects the money and diverts the client towards the woman concealing the product.

“The lady stands some distance away from the stall. Meanwhile, the vendor gesticulates to her about the number of packets to be supplied to the customer,” Kekare added.

FDA did try to deploy female inspectors to overcome the sari roadblock. “It was difficult to take action against the women as no money was handed to them by the customers. We did set out the lady inspectors from our team, but as soon as the culprits get a tip-off they stop the practice for a while.” 

Rs 1.52 cr Value of gutkha confiscated in Pune by FDA since July 19, 2012

Licence please!
In a bid towards effective implementation of Food Safety and Standards Act 2006, a committee has been set up under the chairmanship of district collector Vikas Deshmukh. The Act became effective in the district in August 2011, according to which it is mandatory for each stallholder who sells consumable items to have a licence or to get the shop registered.
While briefing the media, Deshmukh said 7,997 licences have been granted to stall owners so far, while 12,021 stands have been registered. 

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