New Delhi: The ministry of health and family welfare has sanctioned Rs2.17 crore to the Central Tobacco Research Institute (CTRI), Rajahmundhry, for a pilot project on providing alternatives to ‘bidi’ and chewing tobacco crops at Nandyal in Andhra Pradesh, Anand and Dharmaj in Gujarat, Nipani in Karnataka, Vedasandur in Tamil Nadu and Dinhata in West Bengal. These are the major tobacco-producing states in the country.
According to CTRI data, around six million farmers are engaged in tobacco cultivation.
The move comes after the ministry implemented a ban on smoking in public places and announced plans to crack down on tobacco products by introducing pictorial warnings.
Better options: A tobacco field near Bangalore. According to CTRI data, six million farmers are engaged in tobacco cultivation. Rajendra Jadhav / Reuters
The three-year pilot project aims at establishing viable, sustainable alternatives to ‘beedi’ and chewing tobacco crops. Sugar cane, vegetables, garlic, maize, fruits, pepper, cotton, sweet potato are some of the alternative crops proposed to be cultivated by the tobacco farmers.
The project will also look at challenges that the farmers are likely to face during the process of transition, including issues of market support, agriculture research, etc.
India is the third largest producer of tobacco in the world after China and Brazil, and second largest consumer of tobacco, only next to China. The tobacco is grown and used for manufacturing cigarettes, ‘beedi’ and chewing forms mainly. According to the 2002 data, ‘beedi’ tobacco occupied around 30% of the total area under tobacco cultivation and 33% of the total tobacco production in the country. In a report on 4 December, ‘Mint’ had reported that the ‘beedi’ industry employs 10 million workers across the country.
This initiative by the ministry was taken after consultation with the Indian Council of Agriculture of Research and CTRI.