PATNA: The state government has issued a notification prohibiting representatives of tobacco industry from accessing its officials engaged in making the policy framework and rules regarding the implementation of tobacco control laws in Bihar. Instead, they would have to now approach only the eight-member empowered committee if they have anything to say on the matter, including the interests of tobacco industry.
Principal secretary (health) R K Mahajan, who is also the state commissioner for food safety, issued the notification on Friday. The overriding factor is that no issue or claim of the representatives of the tobacco industry would be entertained even by the empowered committee if it compromises with public health on account of consumption of tobacco based products. Moreover, before holding discussion with any government official concerned on the matter, they would have to take permission from the empowered committee, which reserves its right to reject the plea for discussion if it militates against tobacco control and public health in any way.
Significantly, the notification concerned has also defined rules and norms for even government officials who are engaged either in making the government’s policy framework or the rules regarding tobacco control. They would have to give in writing to the empowered committee disclosing if they had or have any profitable or non-profitable connection with the tobacco industry in the past or at present, besides mentioning if they have any desire to work in the tobacco industry post-retirement, or think of making investment in it.
Further, if they have any profitable connection with the tobacco industry, they would have to relinquish the post within 30 days of getting engaged in the government’s activities related to tobacco control. Besides, in no case, the government officials would demand or accept gifts from representatives of tobacco industry either for themselves, or for their family members, relatives and friends, the notification has clarified.
The empowered committee has been set up in the backdrop of the WHO’s ‘framework convention on tobacco control (FCTC)’ to which 184 countries, including India, are signatories. While Mahajan heads the committee, its other members are principal secretaries of home, commercial taxes, industry, law, information and public relations departments, apart from executive director of state health society (SHS) and IG (police).
Executive director of Socioeconomic and Educational Development Society (SEEDS) Deepak Mishra said Bihar is the third state in the country to have issued such a notification. The two other states are Punjab and Mizoram. “A comparative reading shows that the features of Bihar’s notification are better than that of the two other states,” he said, adding: “It is being discussed as a model that could be replicated by other states.”