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Plan to collect details of policemen addicted to gutka in Karachi

Updated February 03, 2019

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A senior police officer admits that many cops consume harmful tobacco-based item. — File
A senior police officer admits that many cops consume harmful tobacco-based item. — File

KARACHI: Although the police continue their action against production, sale and purchase of gutka and other substandard chewable tobacco-based items across Sindh, authorities at the helm of affairs have found that a significant part of their own force is addicted to the injurious substances.

This has forced them to go for collecting details about the exact number of such “addicted” law-enforcers at least in Karachi before devising a plan to handle the situation, officials said on Saturday.

During background conversations with Dawn, senior officials in all seven districts of the Karachi police’s organisational structure conceded that a large number of their men were involved in the unhealthy activity.

Also, those who underwent commando training have similarly been found to be involved in consuming the injurious substance even during duty hours.

The Sindh police formally launched a campaign against sale and production of gutka and other substandard chewable tobacco-based products across the province and seized more than one tonne of the hazardous items in a month. The action is still going on with the same spirit leading to the arrests of hundreds of gutka producers and sellers in the province.

A senior police officer admits that many cops consume harmful tobacco-based item

“A majority of those arrested in Karachi are those selling such products despite a government ban,” said an official. “They have been booked in cases under Sections 269 [negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life] and 270 [malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life] of the Pakistan Penal Code. It’s a bailable offense.”

But despite fighting the menace for over two years, chasing sellers, seizing huge quantities of injurious substances and busting dozens of production facilities to establish the writ of the state, policemen themselves have largely been involved in consuming gutka and other related products.

“It’s a fact that a good number of people in our force are using such products,” said Additional Inspector General, Karachi Dr Amir Sheikh. “We have even notified and issued warnings against the use of such products at least during duty hours but obviously it’s not [being] followed in spirit. To tackle this issue, we are planning to conduct a survey, or carry out a kind of analysis or study, to determine the number of addicted people and devise measures to tackle that.”

Health experts have expressed serious concerns over the growing use of hazardous products across the province and warn that the situation is so alarming that it has become a prime source of oral cancer among males. They also question the half-hearted efforts of the authorities to ban this lucrative business.

“The juice of betel nuts [a key ingredient of gutka] is carcinogenic,” said prominent ENT specialist Dr Qaiser Sajjad, who is also the secretary general of the Pakistan Medical Association. “We have proposed so many times about a complete and effective ban on all such products but it’s quite unfortunate that whenever there is a campaign against such business it thrives in black market and only increases the prices of these products. There is a need for comprehensive and solid measures to ban it once and for all.”

Published in Dawn, February 3rd, 2019