New Delhi : The government needs to urgently plug all loopholes in the FDI policy on tobacco and have a comprehensive ban on it, ensuring that no steps are taken to dilute it, says non-profit body Crusade Against Tobacco.
Reacting to concerns raised by Niti Aayog over total FDI ban in tobacco sector, CAT also said the current policy only partially prohibits FDI into the sector and has been ineffective in stopping innovative and indirect channels for foreign tobacco firms to infuse funds for promotion of their global brands in India.
“There is unanimous acceptance among health NGO’s and Ministry of Health that the time has come for bold steps to reduce tobacco consumption in India. A complete ban on FDI in tobacco is a pre-requisite to provide a levelling ground for tobacco control policies,” CAT Chairman Vincent Nazareth said.
In letters written to PMO, Finance and Commerce Ministries, the CAT Chairman highlighted that the current policy bans FDI in manufacturing, but leaves a loophole, which has been exploited.
“This loophole keeps the interests of large foreign tobacco players alive in the Indian tobacco market. This gives them a strong reason to continue lobbying for slowing down tobacco control efforts in India,” Nazareth said.
Asking the Centre to “urgently plug all loopholes in the FDI policy on tobacco” in order to ensure a comprehensive ban, as the health of the nation is at huge risk.
“If comprehensive ban can be brought about in lotteries and gambling activities, why spare tobacco?” he said while also asking the government to initiate investigation on funding released to this sector in last nine years “to see if there has been any violation in the law and whether there is any infringement of regulation”.
He said there has been a steep rise in the illegal and smuggled cigarettes in India, which now represent 20 per cent of the Indian cigarette market.