Union Health Minister’s letter praising Congress counterpart in Jharkhand raises eyebrows
While UP has lifted the ban on ‘Paan Masala’, Jharkhand has banned eleven popular brands, manufactured mostly in UP. The Union Minister’s effusive praise has, therefore, baffled Jharkhand govt
The Hemant Soren Government in Jharkhand is flummoxed by unexpected praise heaped by a union minister. Ministers in the Modi-led government are not known for praising non-BJP governments. On the contrary, they seldom lose an opportunity to pull up an opposition ruled state. No wonder Jharkhand ministers and bureaucrats are left to wonder at what the catch is.
What has baffled them even more is that the effusive ‘personal’ letter has been addressed by the union minister to a Jharkhand minister belonging to the Congress, a coalition partner in the JMM-led state government. A BJP minister sending such a note to a state minister from the Congress, they claim, is unusual and perhaps unprecedented!
The letter from the Union Health Minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan, to Jharkhand Health Minister, Banna Gupta, congratulates the latter for taking the bold step of banning tobacco products and spitting in public places. The Central Minister did not stop here. He subsequently wrote to other state governments to emulate Jharkhand Minister’s decision and implement the same in their own areas.
The Union Minister’s letter (see copy), speaks of advisories to all other state governments to follow the Jharkhand model. Jharkhand Government decided to ban tobacco products, particularly chewing tobacco and ‘Paan Masala’ in view of the users’ habit of spitting in public places. Jharkhand health minister Banna Gupta revealed there were nearly 80 lakh Paan Masala users in Jharkhand, a number equal to the population of Bangalore city.
Gupta said the ban on eleven popular brands of Paan Masala was prompted by the desire to intensify the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. He said that as per the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, percentage of tobacco chewers was much higher in Jharkhand at 35.4 %, even higher than the national average. It is also said to have led to higher incidence of cancer.
While thanking Banna Gupta for ‘taking this bold step’, Dr Harsh Vardhan wrote, ‘ you are aware tobacco use is a major threat to public health globally.’ He further pointed out that spitting in public places increased health risks and helped spread infectious diseases like COVID-19, tuberculosis, swine flu and encephalitis.