In the wake of the Supreme Court order lifting the ban on hookah parlours in Mumbai, former mayor Shubha Raul has now sought an appointment with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, hoping that he includes ‘hookah’ in his ‘Nashamukt Bharat’ campaign.
On December 9, the Supreme Court set aside a Bombay High Court (HC) order that upheld a ban on hookah parlours in the city. The HC in 2011 upheld a BMC circular banning hookah parlours and dismissed a challenge to it.
Last week, Raul, who was the face of the anti-hookah campaign in 2008, had also written a letter to Modi praising him of his promise of a ‘Nashamukt Bharat’.
“I am writing to you with complete faith that you will take up this matter and with your ‘NashaMukt Bharat’ drive this problem of Hookah parlour defecting our culture will be soon eliminated,” she has written.
Speaking to Newsline, Raul said, “During my tenure as a mayor, an FDA report had clearly revealed that the nicotine levels in cigarettes and hookahs are the same. If this is the case, then the BMC should also make it mandatory for parlours to put up a notice saying ‘hookahs are injurious to health’. It is a threat to the culture and health of the society.”
“During my mayorship, I undertook the drive against such Hookah parlours and shut many of them down. Strict rules and regulations, the same as those related to cigarette smoking, were laid down for places serving hookah,” she wrote to Modi, adding, “Swami Vivekanandaji had said in the 21st century, Indian will be a guiding force to the entire world on different horizons such as education, yog sanskar, culture, business, communication and so on.”
In her letter, Raul has said she is inspired by Modi’s address to the Nation and his aim of making the country ‘Nashamukht’.
Raul further goes on to argue that hoteliers will serve hookahs to students, under the guise that it contains lesser nicotine levels. After writing a letter, Raul now has sent a mail to Modi seeking an appointment to personally meet him and discuss the issue.
The Sena leader is also planning to forward the same letter to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to address the issue in Maharashtra.
The BMC had initiated a crackdown six years ago against coffee bars, bistros and any outlet serving hookahs, following a campaign run in 2008 by Raul. The Sena leader had then alleged that teenagers were getting addicted to hookahs, which contained nicotine. “From the time I started the campaign, so many activists and parents have told me about their children getting addicted to hookahs which is more harmful. As a parent and a woman, I feel strongly about the issue,” says Raul.
In 2010, the BMC had also cancelled licences of coffee shops or eating joints serving hookah. The only exception was for places with separate smoking zones where youngsters below 18 were not permitted.
“The SC order coincided with the assembly polls and the law department is yet to guide us in terms of how to go about framing guide-lines for hookah parlours.
We have therefore not started granting permissions for hookah parlours,” said Sanjay Deshmukh, additional municipal commissioner, in-charge of the health department of the civic body.