· WHO FCTC Convention on Tobacco Control might influence the Government to take arbitrary decisions
· Also appeals to Health Ministry to include retailers in the Indian delegation at FCTC COP7
New Delhi, 26 September, 2016: The Akhil Bharatiya Paan Vikreta Sangathan (ABPVS), a body of small tobacco retailers across India, has appealed to the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, to protect the millions of retailers whose livelihood is directly dependent on tobacco retail. According to ABPVS the Government might be forced to consider and adopt harsh policies against tobacco retailers at the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), scheduled to be held in India in 2016. To counter this and to ensure that the small retailers are also allowed to present their point of view and their valid concerns, the association has also appealed to the Health Ministry to include tobacco retailers in the team representing India at WHO FCTC.
ABPVS has asserted that NGOs, under the influence of multinational companies from Western countries and promoting the interests of supermarkets and mega markets, have been influencing the WHO to adopt resolutions at the conferences, which will affect the livelihood of millions of small tobacco retailers across India. The appeal has also been made out to the Union Health Minister, Union Commerce Minister, Union Labour Minister and Union Finance Minister.
ABPVS is pained to see that lobbying by various Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) in India on tobacco regulation has resulted in excessive tobacco control policies which have caused immense hardships to lakhs of tobacco retailers in the country and also put their livelihood and existence in danger. the Government might be forced to consider and adopt harsh policies against tobacco retailers at the World Health Organization. Most of these retailers are small entrepreneurs, who support themselves and their families through tobacco retail.
“In the WHO FCTC conference, the discussions will be held behind closed doors, and conclusions would be decided by just a few participants. Is it the best way to decide the future of the millions dependent on the industry? We expect impractical and unreasonable tobacco control measures to be adopted without any discussion or representation from stakeholders like us. Since the conference is being held India – a proud democracy – it should follow the
democratic traditions of the country and allow participation by those whose future would be affected,” says Ram Ashrey Mishra, President, Akhil Bharatiya Pan Vikreta Sangathan.
The NGOs have so far been extremely successful in lobbying with the Union Health Ministry as a result of which unreasonable and impractical tobacco laws have been framed in the country causing harassment of poor retailers in the country and in the process affecting their livelihood. Because of the regulations, which are the harshest in the world, and excessive taxation on tobacco products in India, there has been a significant increase in the availability of smuggled tobacco products in the country as is evident by the large number of seizures made by the enforcement agencies.
Real fears of millions of small tobacco retailers across India about WHO FCTC conference
· The WHO FCTC Conference, under the influence of NGOs and other vested interests, would force the Indian Government into adopting new and extreme tobacco control regulations. These new policies and regulations would serve the objective of large format retail outlets and will affect livelihood of people running small outlets across India
· In the WHO FCTC conference all discussion will be held behind closed doors and some arbitrary, impractical and unreasonable tobacco control measures are likely to be adopted without discussion with the tobacco industry/ stakeholder like the poor retailers whose future would be impacted by such illogical decisions
· WHO FCTC has been used as a platform by NGOs with their selfish interest to push the agenda of the developed countries of the West and who have no knowledge of the hardships faced by tobacco retailers in developing countries like India to make a living
· Most of the NGOs working against the tobacco industry in India are funded by Western ‘donors,’ who have major interest in promoting supermarket format for retailing in India and also have direct links with the multinationals based in USA and Europe. By killing the traditional retail format in India these NGOs will help multinationals to extensively establish their supermarkets in the country
· Resolution at the conference will encourage the US/European multinational companies to promote smuggling of tobacco products in India, available at half the price of legal Indian cigarettes due to tax evasion and without any large warnings, as displayed by Indian cigarettes
· WHO FCTC normally cities Article 5.3 to block participation of tobacco retailers in their conferences. The Association is shocked that this trick is being used by FCTC even in a democratic country like India, which is hosting the next conference in November 2016. As citizens of this country the Association has all the rights to be involved in discussion by FCTC on matters relating to tobacco control which would impact the livelihood of millions of poor and marginal tobacco retailers
Appeal to the Government of India
· Protect the interests of millions of small retailers during WHO FCTC conference
· Tobacco retailer associations should be consulted by the Government of India
· Since WHO FCTC conference is being held in a democratic country like India, the Conference should follow democratic traditions and allow participation by those whose future would be affected by any decision.
· The Association sincerely appeals to the Health Ministry to include Tobacco Retailers in the team representing India at the WHO FCTC conference
· Union Health Ministry must resist any move by WHO FCTC towards any further restriction on tobacco retailing as such a measure would have a disastrous effect on the millions of poor retailers
· The Government of India should investigate the funding and working of NGOs in the field of tobacco-control and be aware of NGOs spreading lies to push excessive regulations to serve the interests of Western Organizations at the WHO FCTC conference
· Sincere appeal to the Government of India that no impractical resolutions be adopted at the WHO FCTC conference which could lead to loss of livelihood of tobacco retailers in the country
· ABPVS humbly requests the Hon’ble Prime Minister and other Union Ministers not to participate in the WHO FCTC in November 2016 conference as it is working against the millions of small and poor tobacco retailers of the country, who are already under tremendous pressure to make a living and ensure their family’s survival