An association of beedi makers has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to order an inquiry into the foreign funds received by NGOs to lobby to change India’s tobacco laws.
The Akhila Bharathiya Beedi Mazdoor Maha Sangh (ABBMMS), affiliated to the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, alleged that NGOS got $25.66 million to influence the media, politicians and lawmakers to push for legislation that would help multinational cigarette makers to enter the Indian market.
“We seek your intervention to order an inquiry into NGOs using foreign money to fund paid media and political lobbying to push for regulations for tobacco products that benefit multinational cigarette companies whose products are smuggled into India,” a letter addressed to Modi stated.
The letter, written by ABBMMS President Kalal Srinivas, also stated that the implementation of the mandated 85 per cent pictorial health warnings would benefit illegally smuggled products of multinational cigarette companies.
“We understand that many NGOs have played a vital role for these regulations, which is welcome… However, their funding source when revealed gives a shocking data that as many as $25.66 million have been received by these NGOs/other organisations,” said the letter.
According to the letter, 39 NGOs received foreign funding.
According to the association, while the majority of the funding was to further the implementation of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a developed country like the US had not ratified the FCTC.
The Tobacco Institute of India has said that the 85 per cent pictorial warning has destroyed the legal cigarette industry and boosted illegal trade.
According to a recent study by FICCI, illegal cigarettes account for a huge 20.2 per cent slice of the cigarette industry and results in a loss of Rs 9,000 crore of government revenue.