The leading cigarette manufacturer in India, ITC Ltd, made a financial contribution of Rs. 6.78 lakh in the last two years, all major political parties in the country, causing public health officials here to the question of possible intervention of tobacco companies’ efforts of the central government to bring in tough anti-smoking laws in the country. “
The figures disclosed ITC Ltd – and the recently released activists as part of its campaign against tobacco – note that the company paid the Indian National Congress (3 crore), the Bharatiya Janata Party (Rs 2.50 lakh), Samajwadi Party (rupiy. 0 42 million rupees), Rashtriya Janata Dal (0.33 lakh rupees), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (0,22 lakh rupees), Shiv Sena (Rs 0.17 lakh) and the Nationalist Congress Party (Rs 0.14 lakh) in the last two years (2010-2011).
“What does it mean when the largest cigarette manufacturer in India donates money to all the major political parties in the country? This means that he is trying to boost trade and dilute any policy; political parties can lead to keep its sales and profits. We are against the conflict of interest and in this case, the main victim is the public health, “said Amit Yadav, an attorney of the Public Health Foundation of India, non-governmental organizations working in the field of tobacco control.
“In addition, the Framework Convention of the World Health Organization’s Tobacco Control (FCTC) – a global health treaty, which India ratified in February 2004 – requires that signatories in developing and implementing their public health policies on tobacco control must act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national legislation. This is in accordance with Article 5.3 of the FCTC, “said Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, executive director of the NGO Public Health Association of India.
Responding to the accusations, ITC Corporate Communications Vice President Nazeeb Arif says: “The WHO FCTC Article 5.3 says nothing about the donations from the” tobacco “companies. May also be noted that the Convention is not the law of the country,” he adds: «ITC, as well as other responsible corporate, made donations to political parties in a transparent manner»
Mr. Yadav admits that “there is nothing illegal about what the company does,” but says that “the government takes money from the ITC also runs counter to his talk about trying to bring a tougher policy on tobacco control.”
Pointing to rampant abuse of tobacco and its impact on the growth of health activist and Tata Memorial Hospital Mumbai, a leading cancer surgeon Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi said: “This is for the government to stand up here and refuse cash aid organizations [an Indian or foreign] that deal with the goods is detrimental to human health . You can not have good will and financial assistance in the form of the tobacco industry and policy in relation to them. Practice is not illegal it is just unethical. Here we focus only on one organization. Government should take the part of public health and works for the ordinary rights. “
“The central government is now actively exploring the issue of government firms investing in tobacco companies,” said a senior officer of health, which, however, declined to comment on political parties receive money from the tobacco manufacturers. As of March 31, 2011, five out of ten shareholders ITC were state-owned insurance companies, including Life Insurance Corporation of India.
Mr. Arif, however, insists that the criticism is misplaced ITC. “In India, cigarettes account for only 15 percent of tobacco – the rest consists of chewing tobacco, beds, etc. – but also contribute to more than 75 percent of the taxes from the sector. There is also evidence of links between international companies and organized smuggling of cigarettes, especially in developing countries. This growth in the industry of illegal cigarettes robs national treasuries potential taxes in addition to the provision of inferior quality. India currently ranks 6th in global illegal trade in cigarettes [domestic illicit and contraband] and has one of the highest growth rate which increased by 58 percent over the period 2004 – 2009 while the global market showed a decline of 4.2 percent over the same period. As the industry an estimated loss of revenue in this regard, it is estimated, Rs. basic 3000 per annum. Creating strong Indian brands of cigarettes could reduce the huge influx of smuggled cigarettes in a foreign country, “he says.
He notes that if tobacco control is the goal, the duty-free sale of cigarettes should be banned because they allow unscrupulous diversion of such cigarettes in the domestic market, once again plunder the treasury of Indian tax, as well as Indian farmers livelihood.