Micro Retailers Agitated On Letter Written By Health Ministry Imposing Restrictions On Their Right To Choose Products They Sell 

• Appeal to the Prime Minister to quash the undemocratic suggestion to restrict selling of legal products• Any action will have a severe life-threatening effect on the livelihoods of millions of families involved in micro-retailing, driving them to extreme poverty• This is against the spirit of the constitution which provides freedom to trade in any legal product
Bhubaneswar:   Bhubaneswar Khili Pana Dokani Mahasangha, present the collective voice of the interests of more than 2 lakhs traders, retailers and panwallas, selling tobacco products across Odisha. We represent the micro retailers of India, and our livelihood depends equally on selling of tobacco products and non-tobacco items of everyday use such as bread, eggs, juices, soft drinks, wafers etc.
Our members come from the lowest sections of the society and for most of us, all the members of our family are engaged in supporting our business of micro retailing. We have to work long hours, mostly from 6 am to 11 pm, throughout the year, as the cost of doing business and cost of living keeps on increasing and we cannot survive if we do not cater to the demands of all the customers visiting our shops.
We are shocked to learn from newspapers about the arbitrary letter issued by Ministry of Health to the Chief Secretaries of States that retail shops that sell tobacco products should not be allowed to sell any non-tobacco product.
This is grossly unfair and a draconian suggestion. This will have a life-threatening effect on our families. All our family members are deeply troubled and stressed.Any forced reduction in the products sold by us, will have a severe financial impact on us, as we have regular fixed clientele and some of them will permanently leave us, if we are not able to cater to their needs. In any locality, there is no restriction to the number of petty retail outlets which exist next to each other. If we are forced to sell only one kind of goods, there will not be enough customers to make it viable to earn their livelihoods.
According to Shri Srinibas Reddy, President, Bhubaneswar Khili Pana Dokani Mahasangha, “We appeal to the Prime Minister to intervene to protect micro retailers from this new, arbitrary, life-threatening suggestion disallowing any product being sold from our shops.
“If this suggestion is not rolled back, small retailers will be forced to resort to illegal activities to survive, which will make these susceptible members of the society further vulnerable. This move is against the Government’s promise of ‘Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas’and will have a mass-scale destructive effect on peaceful jobs and livelihoods”.

Speaking on the occasion, Shri Dukhishyam Mohapatra, General Secretary, Bhubaneswar Khili Pana Dokani Mahasangha said, “In a democracy, everyone should have a right to representation, before giving verdicts which may have a life-defining impact on them. It is unfortunate, that the Health Ministry has not consulted the petty retailers, nor taken their interests in mind before writing such a letter.
In fact almost in all cases the purchases at the store are made by adults and just by generalizing,it is possible that minors may buy tobacco products at the same store is someone’s figment of imagination. Sale of Tobacco product to minors is not allowed by the Government and in fact there is a penalty for violation of this regulation. Our member follow this rule strictly. We are all aware of this law and have put up boards prominently in our shops in compliance with current regulations.

“We fear that the present suggestion is a result of lobbying by multinationals who are out to destroy local traders. We appeal that reason for such a communication must be investigated. If this is not withdrawn, we demand the Government to permanent Government jobs to us and our family members so that we can manage to meet our two ends.
We request Prime Ministerji to intervene in the matter. In the event such an unreasonable, arbitrary and illegal proposal is not withdrawn the Prime Minister should instruct that government jobs must be provided to all of us, as the repercussions of the same on the poor and the defenseless will be humongous. Needless to say, such a proposal also has the potential to completely destabilize the whole trade channel.