The sale of gutka continued on the first day of the ban ordered by the state government. The order has created fear, but has not deterred shopkeepers from selling it. It is no longer displayed in shops as it was done earlier. A sachet whose actual price is Rs 1.50 per packet is now being sold at Rs 3. A Ranigunj shopkeeper, requesting anonymity, said, “The ban has been imposed without giving any notice. I have got huge stocks, which I want to get rid of before officials come for checks.” Shopkeepers were having a continuous flow of gutka customers. When a new client walks in, the reply is standard — that it has been banned. But for regulars, the sale continues.
Anticipating a shortage in the near future, Anil Babu, assistant at a hardware store, has already identified shopkeepers who will supply gutkha despite the ban. “I will not be able to do without it. The ban is forcing me to ration it. If I had three packets a day, now I will have only one,” he said. The possibility of gutka being available in the black market can’t be ruled out. Users are also foreseeing a sharp rise of Rs 5 per packet in the near future if it comes from other states. The GO dated January 9 banned gutka sale with immediate effect. The commissioner of food safety has to implement the ban. “For the department to implement the ban, the GO has to be notified and gazetted. It will take a day or two for us to fully implement it,” said joint food controller A. Sudhakar Rao.