Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Say no to chewing of the Beetle Leaf (Paan)

Many times ago China was notorious for its opium eaters and even the Taj Mahal Hotel of Mumbai that made headlines sometime ago was in fact built with the money of Indo-China opium trade. But then the Chinese overcame this menace and instead chose to be prosperous and developing rather than cling to opium that made them slow and sleepy, and worthless too. Today China ranks among the frontline developed countries of the world.

What China was once, we are today. We spend some astonishing $65mn every year on the import of beetle leaves and beetle nuts for the love of people addicted to beetle leaf chewing almost all over Pakistan, specially Karachi. The chewing of paan is not only unhygienic and unhealthy, leading to mouth cancer and ulcer, is also a source of polluting the environment.

While the concern of people’s health and environment is supreme, it is also the wastage of the so hard earned foreign exchange. It is crazy to spend so much money for the love of a few. With this money God knows how many people can be provided dialysis treatment, blood for Thalassemia patients, expensive platelet for the Dengue patients which only very rich can afford and poor die for want of this expensive vaccine.

And this is not only beetle leaves and nuts that we waste our foreign exchange only. We import cigarettes, cigars, liquor and many other addictive medicines, beside cosmetics which consume billions of tax payers each year. In a National Assembly session, it was argued that these items are heavily taxed and if their import is disallowed, it will result into public uproar. Amazing –isn’t it? Why heavily taxed, as people addicted to it would pay any tax to have it imported. Why not ban such items altogether. And if China could arrest uproar of its opium addicted people, why can’t we?

We only lack will to put this country right. Otherwise banning items that fall under luxury can save billions of rupees each year that can be utilized for the improvement of public services, health and education of the people rather than providing addictive love to a few.

Let us all raise voice to halt import of all luxuries and addictive pleasures like the beetle leaves, beetle nuts, cigarettes and cigars. We need to change our tastes and priorities for the future of our children and our country.

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