New Delhi, Aug 31 (IANS) The Tobacco Institute of India (TII), the only representative of India’s legal cigarette industry, on Wednesday urged the government to include tobacco farmers and other industry stakeholders in the official Indian delegation to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Conference of Parties (FCTC COP7).
TII has said that it is important that policy development during COP 7 is not left to the tobacco control activists and NGOs alone.
“We are concerned that at the behest of vested interests NGOs and anti-tobacco activists in India through their relentless and biased campaign are influencing the government’s tobacco control policy and promoting extreme regulations that are already hurting tobacco farmers and the legal industry in the country and causing widespread growth of illegal trade in cigarettes,” said Syed Mahmood Ahmad, Director TII in a statement.
“We appeal to the Indian Government to include Industry Stakeholders and representatives from the Tobacco Farming Community in the official Indian delegation to the Conference,” Ahmad added.
FCTC COP 7 Meeting is being hosted by India in Noida between November 7 and 12, 2016.
“We are apprehensive that NGOs, who are allowed access to the FCTC COP7, will carry a strong voice during the Conference and attempt to impose their biased agenda on the meeting and may even succeed in ensuring adoption of excessive anti-farmer proposals by the Parties to the Conference causing further distress to tobacco farmers in the country,” Ahmad noted.
According to the preamble to the FCTC, there is a need to consider the livelihood and economic interests of tobacco growers and workers while making policies. TII has said that it is to be taken care.
“The Conference of Parties organised under the aegis of FCTC which is a framework convention under the World Health Organization, a UN agency, should therefore, be carried out in an inclusionary manner and in line with the basic tenets of democratic process adopted by the UN and its various bodies,” said TII quoting the preamble.
According to TII, the growth of illegal cigarettes and the sharp decline in legal cigarette industry consequently has led to the drop in demand for locally grown tobacco and is having a devastating impact on Indian tobacco farmers and their livelihood.
TII has stated that tobacco is an extremely important commercial crop for the India as it contributes more than Rs 30,000 crore in tax revenue annually besides earning about Rs 6,000 crore in foreign exchange.
“It is a matter of great concern for us that FCTC decisions in the past are made behind closed doors, with the media, the public and tobacco farmers excluded from the process,” said TII.