BELGAUM: In most of the villages in the country, it is a common sight to see menfolk — and even children — chewing tobacco, a habit that becomes addiction and the cause of oral cancer. However, there are some villages in Belgaum district in Karnataka where the villagers have ‘banned’ tobacco. Fine is slapped on shops that are found selling gutkha.
Also, those who were earlier addicted to chewing tobacco are now themselves supporting the campaign against it. The campaign involves everyone in the villages: farmers, women, school children and panchayat leaders.
When Express visited some of these villages, it came to light that although the villagers are against tobacco and liquor, some business interests are trying to make sure that the business survives and thrives there.
Also, even though most of the rural populace is against these addictions, the sale of such products continues in a covert way.
How it started 13 years ago
Kalloli village in Gokak taluk took offence to gutkha 13 years ago. The local leaders of Bajrang Dal started the campaign against gutkha and appealed to all the vendors of pan shops and provision stores to stop selling it.
They started the movement after seeing that even primary school students were addicted to chewing tobacco.
Although many vendors agreed to Bajrang Dal’s request, some approached police as legally the shopowners are allowed to sell tobacco.
Even the then DSP got involved in the debate. Ultimately, a resolution was passed wherein it was decided to rid the village of gutkha. After the resolution was passed, four shops were found selling gutkha and they were asked to pay a fine of `1,000 each. Also, villagers declared `100 reward for those who would help catch such offenders red-handed.
Soon the news of Kalloli’s anti-gutkha campaign reached a neighbouring village Rajapur. These villagers too adopted a resolution to save its youth from the health hazards that come with chewing tobacco.
Hefty penalty, strict warning
Another village that has woken up to the hazards of chewing gutkha, Biranagaddi, has already collected `80,000 as fine from those who were found selling gutkha and/or liquor. The amount has been used to construct a community hall and renovate Basaveshwara temple. Also, the villagers have taken note of the practice wherein menfolk get drunk in a neighbouring village and create nuisance back home. They have been clearly told not to quarrel with anybody in inebriated condition and sleep in their house.
Basavaraj Kadadi, one of the anti-gutkha campaigners, says now just one-two per cent people of Kalloli and Rajapur villages chew tobacco.
A villager Goudappa Kotigi reminisces how his village was nine months ago, when even students of fourth class could be seen consuming alcohol openly. He said it was this sight that got them thinking about starting a campaign against tobacco and liquor.
All is well? No
Some youths of Gokak taluk complain that arrack lobby was stopping them from prohibiting the sale of liquor. A youth, on condition of anonymity, said the arrack lobby was involved with some politicians and thus nobody dared confronting them.
Bailoor and Tigadolli villages of Bailhongal taluk have banned the sale of arrack but the business goes on behind closed doors. The covert trade goes in Balobal too. A 13-year-old boy told Express that there was total ban on sale for three-four months but now someone had resumed it.
Sanganakere Cross in Gokak taluk is the hub of tobacco chewers of nearby villages where gutkha has been banned. Former addict Shivanand, President of Vishnua Sena, said Sanganakere Cross is the centre point and most addicts get their gutkha sachets from here. He said even drivers and cleaners of commercial vehicles were serving the addicts by bringing sachets from Sanganakere Cross to the villages.
Shivanand said they had observed a day’s bandh there but the vendors were not keen to stop the sale.
Unperturbed, the villagers are determined to end the tobacco menace.
I AM FORTUNATE THAT MOST OF THE VILLAGES IN MY CONSTITUENCY ARE BANNING SALE OF GUTKHA AND LIQUOR. IT IS A GOOD SIGN TO REALISE THE DREAM OF MAHATMA GANDHI, WHO HAD CONCEPTUALISED THE SARVODAYA MODEL.
— Iranna Kadadi, Member, Kalloli ZP Constituency and President, Belgaum ZP
I USED TO SUFFER FROM TIREDNESS AND LACK OF HUNGER WHEN I WAS CONSUMING GUTKHA. NOW I AM CONSUMING SUFFICIENT FOOD AND MY PRODUCTIVITY HAS IMPROVED A LOT. ALSO, I HAVE BEEN ABLE TO SAVE MORE MONEY.
— Basavaraj Hakki, a resident of Biranagaddi village who has stopped chewing gutkha THERE WAS A PROPOSAL TO BAN GUTKHA AND LIQUOR IN OUR VILLAGE BUT ONE OF THE PROKANNADA LEADERS, WHO IS INVOLVED IN LIQUOR BUSINESS, PREVENTED THE PROPOSAL.
HOWEVER, I AM FIRM ON MY DECISION THAT I WILL PUT CLUTCHES ON BOTH AFTER DEGREE EXAMINATION. I WILL DO IT WITH THE HELP OF LIKEMINDED FRIENDS AFTER FOURFIVE MONTHS.
— Lokesh Banger, BSc student and President of Kanaka Self-Help Group, Hunashyal PG village
WE DON’T FEEL BAD ABOUT THE DECISION. LET VENDORS OF NEIGHBORING VILLAGES MAKE BUSINESS BY SELLING GUTKHA.
WE ARE NOT WORRIED.
- Gopal Shetty, Pan shop owner, Kalloli village
YOU STOP SELLING ARRACK, I’LL STOP SELLING TOBACCO’
Two friends in Birangaddi, Nagendra Kudari and Basu Gokavi, used to tease each other over their occupation. Along with other things, Kudari used to sell tobacco products from his provision store and Gokavi was a vendor of arrack. One day Kudari challenged his friend to quit the business wherein he sells harmful product. “If you stop sale of arrack, I will never sell tobacco products,” he told Basu, who agreed. The news soon spread among the villagers, who were disgusted with liquor as well as tobacco. It got them thinking and they resolved to put an end to this nuisance. Neighbouring village Balobal learnt about this development and the members of Karnataka Rakshana Vedike put a board at the village’s entrance, which states that the village is free from gutkha and liquor.
WHEN VILLAGERS VOTED AGAINST TOBACCO, LIQUOR
Hulikavi village in Belgaum taluk had seen an election in 2006 where people voted to decide whether or not to ban tobacco and liquor. People voted in favour of banning these products. MLA Abhay Patil had taken Panchayat members of Hulikavi gram panchayat to a Maharashtra village where sale of tobacco and liquor was banned. He had even conducted mass meetings wherein doctors told people why tobacco and liquor consumption is harmful. The MLA made similar efforts in Jafarwadi village in 2007.
GUTKHA, LIQUOR? NOT AVAILABLE HERE Villages such as Hadaginal, Chigadolli and Adibatti too have banned liquor. Hadaginal has banned gutkha too. Banajwad of Athani taluk has never seen sale of gutkha and liquor in its limits. Satti and Krishna Kittur too have banned liquor. Bettagere and Hanumapur too have imposed the ban. Gundenatti (Khanapur taluk), Handur, Goshanatti, Hulikottal (all in Bailhongal taluk) have stayed away from sale of liquor. Koligud of Raibag taluk has not allowed sale of gutkha.