Since the lockdown was imposed to prevent COVID 19 from spreading, only essentials are allowed to be sold. In result, the majority are left with no source of income. However, for many, especially in Mumbai’s densely populated areas, selling cigarettes and gutkha at premium rate came to their rescue.

During this lockdown, only shops that sell essential goods such as food grains, vegetables and medicines are open. It is to make sure that no gatherings are taking place. All the other shops, businesses and companies are told to shut and employees are asked to work from home. This situation has led daily wage earners to the situation where they are scared of going hungry.

However, it is seen that pan shop owners and some others are taking advantage of the situation. Though pan shops are not allowed to be open, the owners are now doing the business differently. They are stocking the cigarettes and gutkha at home and standing at every nook and corners of their areas with a carry bag containing cigarettes and gutkha. This is happening mostly in densely populated areas and slums in Mumbai. They are selling the cigarettes and gutkha at a premium rate, 50-80 per cent more than the MRP.

Rakesh Kumar from Kurla said that he is now paying Rs. 350 for a packet of Gold Flake King cigarette which is just for Rs. 170 as per MRP. When asked why he is paying more than double, he replied, “We need it. It’s an addiction. We can’t live without smoking,” said Rakesh.

A resident from Chembur told that a kind of tobacco called ‘Om puri’ which is for Rs. 7 as per the MRP now being sold for Rs. 80. “The shopkeepers are taking advantage of the situation. They know that people will eventually buy no matter how expensive it becomes because of addiction to smoking and tobacco,” added Rizwan Qazi.

When tried to find more it is revealed that many who would before the lockdown was driving auto-rickshaw, taxi or daily wage earners now began selling cigarettes and gutkha. Imammudin Shaikh, a resident of Govandi’s Rafi Nagar told that one of his friends who was an auto-rickshaw driver now started selling cigarettes and gutkha at a premium rate. “He told me that he is earning Rs. 400-500 every day by selling cigarettes and gutkha. He justifies selling of them by saying if he doesn’t earn his family will suffer,” told Imammuddin.

 

 

Those who are addicted to cigarettes and gutkha are not against selling them. However, what they are against is the premium price. “We can understand that they also need money. But charging more than double and triple of the actual price is not right,” said Shahabu Shaikh, a resident from Govandi. He also confirmed that many, from different profession, have started selling cigarette and gutkha.

The sellers are selling cigarettes and gutkha in such a way that even police are not able to identify them. In densely populated areas of Mumbai, people are violating the rules of social distancing and not staying home. Because it is seen that social distancing is impractical in such areas. They go inside their houses when police are on the round and then come out as soon as the police go away.

“Even we don’t have any source of income in this lockdown. The cigarette and gutkha sellers should understand the situation and sell them on MRP,” said one of the residents from Ghatkopar anonymously. He is into realty business and struggling to manage household finance due to the lockdown.

 

Opportunity to get rid of addiction

The cigarette and gutkha addicts complain of premium charges the sellers are charging. But, they are also paying a heavy price to buy them. However, they are missing the opportunity to get rid of the addiction. Even, World Health Organisation (WHO) has also recommended people to stop smoking as it increases the risk of getting infected by COVID-19.

“Smoking damages your lungs and other parts of your body, and it makes you more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. It is the right time to 🚭 quit smoking for a safer and better health 💪,” reads WHO Facebook post.

It may be somewhat difficult to quit smoking and chewing gutkha but it is better late than never.

If you are one of them who managed to quit cigarettes, gutkha or alcohol during this lockdown then please let me know. You could be an inspiration for many. Drop your contact in the comment section. Your contacts will not be published.