Complete Ban On Gutka Sales Achieved In Odisha By One Man And His Team
Md Imran Ali had been crusading against tobacco and alcohol addiction in Odisha since his college days. While pursuing his Master’s degree in Social Work in Bhubaneswar, he would visit the slum of Shantipali where he discovered that kids as young as 10 years were addicted to tobacco products, especially Gutka. On digging deeper into the matter, he came to know that parents were unaware of the fact that gutka was easily available in the market. Hence, the children became addicted to gutka and later alcohol and drugs.
Imran was so shocked with the investigation that he ended up writing a book Bloody Gutka in order to create awareness about the harmful effects of gutka. With his friends, he launched an awareness programme in the slums to talk with the parents. With some efforts, he founded Nasha Mukti Yuva Sankalp (NMYS) in Bhubaneswar. Our readers can visit the website here:
Thus, what began as a field investigation during a college course, ended up being a crusade against tobacco/ alcohol and substance abuse. “This campaign is like our addiction in the fight against addiction. We have decided to donate one rupee and one hour for the country each day,” says Md. Imran Ali to The Better India. With about 30 volunteers in the NMYS, Imran targeted schools and colleges next to bring about awareness about various addictions. Simultaneously, they phased out a legal approach to the tobacco menace.
Imran and his friend Jitendra Kumar Sahoo filed a PIL in the Odisha High Court to ban the sale of tobacco products at OMFED (Orissa State Cooperative Milk Producers’ Federation Limited) booths in the state which had turned into smoking hubs. They received legal help free of cost by a senior advocate, Biren Tripathi, and in 2011 the court ruled that there should be a ban on tobacco products in the state milk booths.
A notification issued by the Odisha State Government on 4th January 2013 observed that over 43% of state population consumed smokeless tobacco, accounting for over 40% of all cancers in Odisha. Aiming to bring about a complete ban on gutka business in the state, the group launched awareness drives and online campaigns but were not successful. It was time to file another PIL in the High Court and they were aided by CLAP (Committee for Legal Aid to Poor), an NGO. The state government banning gutka completely in 2013 was another feather in NMYS’ cap.
The next step in their campaign was an Odiya documentary, Salaam Jeevan, revealing the hazards brought about by tobacco. The youth wing of the state government helped airing the documentary in 2, 500 colleges in the state. Close on the heels came a book with the same title and another documentary, Silent Killer, which was circulated on WhatsApp.
In order to counsel tobacco addicts, Imran has roped in a doctor friend, B Nayak. He explains to the patients that mouth cancer shows subtle symptoms of slow development and if stemmed in early stages, can prevent the disease. Those underprivileged who already suffer from mouth cancer are taken to the Acharya Harihar Regional Cancer Centre for free treatment by NMYS volunteers.
While Imran works as part time teacher in a college, all other volunteers also come from different backgrounds and the leader feels blessed to have them in his bandwagon. Professional editors, voice-over artists, cameramen, etc., agree to volunteer for his movies for free.
The source of his dedication to this noble cause lay in the notice addressed by President APJ Kalam to the banks to allow education loan to Imran for his post-graduation course because he was denied by the banks. The incident made me think that if the first citizen of the country is so dedicated towards the welfare of common people like me, then my duty and responsibility toward the country become even greater,” he says. His campaign is the greatest cause of his satisfaction and happiness.
The Logical Indian community lauds the crusader against Gutka, Imran and urges our readers to chip in their bit to the cause. They can visit his Facebook profile here: