Exemplary work of NGOs in making India tobacco free, honoured

Maharashtra is one of the first states in India to make a very strong commitment towards going tobacco-free. The state government is known for taking significant steps to nurture the health of its citizens. Supporting this endevour are organisations that work at the grassroots, especially in the interior pockets of the state, to implement ideas and policies of the government and make the dream of a tobacco-free Maharashtra a reality.

One of them is Salaam Mumbai Foundation –the rural arm of Salaam Bombay Foundation –that has been working towards creating awareness of the health hazards of tobacco use and to reduce consumption rates across the state. On Friday, Salaam Mumbai Foundation in association with Narotam Sekhsaria Foundation honoured 4 NGOs and 9 individuals at a National Level Awards and Grant ceremony held at the Yashwantaro Chavan Pratishthan. These included NGOs Tarun Chetna from Pratapgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Jan SwasthyaSahyog from Bilaspur, Chattisgarh, Deendayal Research Institute from Satna, Madhya Pradesh and Nirman Vikas Sanstha from Jalna, Maharashtra. The individual awardees were Dr. Satish Uttamrao Patil from Dhule, Mr. Laxman Aba Shinde from Sangli, Ms. Varsha Vidya Vilas from Mumbai, Mr. Siddheshwar Vasant Dokhe from Ratnagiri, Mr. Sanjay Ganpati Mohite from Kolhapur, Mr. Suresh BapuraoRahate from Amravati, Mr. Chandrabodhi Bapuraoji Ghaywate from Yavatmal, Mr. Avdhut Wankhede from Yavatmal and Mr. MallinathKalshetti, District Collector from Nandurbar.

The NGOs were given a grant of Rs 10 lakh and individuals were awarded Rs 50,000 to continue their commendable work in the field of tobacco-control. Each of these organisations and individuals are ones that have made an enormous contribution to the field of tobacco-control in India. The awardees were honoured by Supriya Sule, Member of Parliament, in the presence of Marathi film Farzand director Digpal Lanjekar, film actor Ankit Mohan and other special invitees.

A major merit of the programme was the fact that the individuals and organisations chosen for the awards belonged to different parts of the country. The rationale behind the move is to ensure that just as the government and NGOs have joined hands and are working together towards making Maharashtra tobacco-free, the same could be replicated in other states as well. Organisations from Uttar Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh were chosen after a rigorous selection procedure with the view to reach out to more and more parts of India, aiming at a tobacco-free India rather than a tobacco-free Maharashtra. On the sidelines of the award ceremony, a workshop was also conducted to sensitise participants on the effective implementation of COTPA.

The Maharashtra government is a forerunner in the movement against tobacco with its laudable tobacco control strategy, especially to guard its young generation. Its initiatives are worth emulating -- notable among these being the Maharashtra State Bureau of Textbook Production and Curriculum Research, popularly known as Balbharti, including a chapter on tobacco control in the Class 5, 7, 9 and 10 SSC Science textbooks for the academic year. The government has also shown praiseworthy commitment in taking strict action against the violators of COTPA. It has launched a toll-free helpline to report any kind of violations of the Act. Maharashtra has also became the first state to implement the Centre’s directive to ban the sale of tobacco and FMCG goods under one roof. It has banned the sale of gutkha and cigarettes within 100 metres of educational institutions too.

Working hand-in-hand with the government has been Salaam Mumbai Foundation. The NGO aims to make all schools in Maharashtra and India tobacco-free. The organisation has been working on multiple fronts to integrate the implementation of the CBSE’s Tobacco-Free School (TFS) criteria into a government-run project. Salaam Mumbai Foundation works on building the capacity of existing trainers through training and tools for implementation of tobacco-free school criteria. Due to the organisation’s efforts, the Mhasala block in Raigad district has become a tobacco-free schools block while all ZillaParishadschools from Yawatmal district and Wardha district have become tobacco free. A total of 4,500 schools have become tobacco free due the efforts put in by the team at Salaam Mumbai Foundation. Salaam Mumbai Foundation has also worked on making four villages of Chandrapur district tobacco-free including Thutra, MangiBudruk, Khairguda and Loldoha.

Speaking about the event, Rajashree Kadam, VP-Operations, Salaam Mumbai Foundation said, “Maharashtra is one of the first few states to have taken concrete steps towards becoming tobacco-free. NGOs and organisations like ours are working at the grassroots to implement the policies of the government on the ground. This grant ceremony is a way of extending support to other organisations and individuals who are doing exemplary work in different parts of Maharashtra and India. We want to replicate the success of Maharashtra and work towards making the whole of India tobacco-free. It is going to be a joint effort that involves various NGOs and stakeholders from the government to provide a tobacco-free India for our future generations.”


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