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|January 7, 2000||
Goa's tobacco lobby gets a breather as govt dithers on ban
Sandesh Prabhudesai in Panaji
Goa's pioneering legislation to restrict smoking, consumption and sale of tobacco in public places is once again in trouble.
The new coalition government led by Francisco Sardinha plans to amend it drastically, to allow smoking in open public places.
"We have enough of rules to break for the bad people. Let us have good rules for good people to follow," he told journalists in justification of why he has stalled notifying prime provisions of the Act, which was to be brought into force from January 1.
He agrees that smoking within the four walls like government offices, hospitals or educational institutions should be restricted to only the smoking zones identified by the authorities concerned, but not open places like beaches, bus-stands and even the railway stations.
"Who gets disturbed if you smoke in open ? My government is practical and not theoretical. We will streamline the Act with a rational approach," he claims.
He does not agree that smoking could be restricted to only the identified smoking zones even in open places, like what the legislation provides.
The public places here were public transport, auditoria, cinema/conference/ seminar halls, hospitals, health institutions, amusement centres, restaurants, eating houses, hotel lounges, other waiting lounges, public offices, court buildings, educational institutions, libraries, bus stands, ferry boats, places of worship, sports stadium and even beaches.
The Goa Prohibition of Smoking & Spitting Act has come a long way since it was passed unanimously by the Goa Assembly in July 1997. After raising series of queries while the tobacco lobby was trying hard to block it, President of India assented to it in September 1999, without changing a single word.
"I did not support it. But I also did not oppose it", says Sardinha while justifying his act of not raising any objection when the assembly was discussing it.
He was not part of the last Assembly as he was defeated, though he was later elected Member of Parliament. At least 16 among the 40 legislators are re-elected to the new Assembly.
While stalling the implementation in spite of high power co-ordination committee officially deciding to fully implement the act from this month, Sardinha now plans to move amendments in the next Assembly session. What it means ultimately is that the act would not come into force immediately.
"My government cannot be pressurised by anybody", claims Sardinha, dismissing the allegation that he has succumbed to the pressures of the tobacco lobby. It has to be seen what stand the BJP, which is part of the coalition government, takes now as the party has vociferously supported the legislation right from the beginning.
Eduardo Faleiro, the Congress MP, has demanded that the legislation should be implemented speedily, strictly and effectively. The BJP government at the Centre is allowing the international tobacco lobby to use India as a dumping ground, he alleged.
The legislation was not only meant to restrict consumption of tobacco but also ban sale of it to the minors and near educational institutions or religious places. The Act was enacted to prohibit tobacco products' display or advertisement in any form, even as logos on T-shirts, caps, bags, etc.
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