New proposals like booking of retailers selling loose cigarettes and 7 years of imprisonment, are unacceptable, traders argued.
The Federation of Retailers Association of India (FRAI), an industry body representing 40 million micro and small traders, has appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the proposed norms on sale and promotion of tobacco products.
Flagging their concerns over the adverse impact the new norms might have on small traders, the body has sought immediate intervention by the PM.
According to FRAI, the proposed amendments by the Ministry of Health in Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (CoTPA) through a CoTPA Bill, 2020, will severely impact the livelihoods of traders already devasted by the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
“We humbly seek Hon’ble Prime Minister’s empathy and request him to instruct the designated ministry to immediately roll back the proposed CoTPA amendments as they are extremely harsh.
"Unlike Coronavirus, policy changes like these are totally in the hands of our policy makers and should be given a serious human consideration. Today, we feel victimized and targeted as a community and plead for mercy," said Ram Asre Mishra, president, FRAI.
The small traders are primarily primarily opposing some of the new proposals like the prohibition on the sale of loose cigarettes, ban on sale of tobacco products to persons below 21 years, and controls on in-shop advertising and promotion, among others.
According to Mishra, these provisions will adversely impact the businesses of small retailers, while benefitting larger retailers.
According to FRAI, most of its members sustain their livelihood by selling biscuits, soft drinks, mineral water, cigarettes, bidi and pan in the neighbourhoods.
While, profit of these micro retailers in selling these essential products works out to about Rs 15,000 per month which is barely enough to provide two square meals a day to their family members, the lockdown and the Covid-19 pandemic have already brought down their incomes drastically.
New proposals like booking of retailers selling loose cigarettes and 7 years of imprisonment, are unacceptable, traders argued. Retailers have also sought exemption from any licencing requirement under the proposed amendment.
Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters