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Blog: Singh- The Tee-Total True Singh

Posted: Saturday, 20 November 2010 12:22

Blog: Gutka vs. Grapes of Gewürz or Grenache

A cursory look at a recent newspaper report would have made people feel sick and mad as they read about two gutka families being united in a matrimonial alliance on November 18 in Delhi, planning to get a bevy of Bollywood stars that alone would cost Rs. 250 million, more than last year’s profits of the entire wine industry.

Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif were part of the entourage for one week’s celebrations, with King Khan reportedly charging $900,000 for his performance for which advances had already been paid. It is another matter that the stars reportedly decided to cancel when the income tax department started probing into which actors were involved and how much they were being paid by the influential families.

While the wine industry is struggling with total profits for last year less than the money being paid to the celebrities, gutka is a highly profitable business and has millions wrapped around its use as ‘addicts’. Several state governments have banned its use as an injurious drug under the constitution on various occasions, but the producers are highly influential and unlike the wine producers, are generally able to manipulate politicians and the bureaucrats in their favour.

Wine is mistakenly interpreted as a harmful drink at times by the state governments even though the production is encouraged by Maharashtra and Karnataka and other states which are slowly waking up to the fact that it is a revenue earner and job creator. Made from grapes like Gewürztraminer and Grenache (although Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Zinfandel, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc are more common in India) it is undergoing a crisis due to the bridled consumption because of hurdles created by the same State governments and others alike.

Gutka is a preparation of crushed betel nut, tobacco, catechu, lime and sweet or savoury flavourings like cardamom. It is consumed much like chewing tobacco, and like chewing tobacco it is considered responsible for oral cancer and other severe negative health effects (Reference Wikipedia). It is a powdery, granular light brownish to white substance. Within moments in the mouth, it begins to dissolve and turn deep red in color. It imparts upon the user a "buzz" somewhat more intense than that of tobacco.

Another visit to the Indian Constitution, especially Section 47 is relevant. It reads, ‘the State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties and, in particular, the State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purpose of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health’.

The emphasis was on improving public health, intoxicating drinks , intoxicating drugs and injurious to health. There is a strong and growing quasi scientific evidence during the last two decades that wine in moderation-up to two standard glasses a day is good for heart and other organs, implying that it is medicinal and good for improving health.

Unfortunately, wine can also be injurious and intoxicating beyond two glasses and it is, after all a drink (alcoholic). Therefore, the States have the right to term it an intoxicating drink, injurious to health and may ban its use like in Gujarat and partly in Meghalaya or restrict consumption through taxation and sales policies, which has in fact been happening.

On the other hand, some States have understand the injurious effects of gutka on health and have banned it for varied periods of time and the courts have supported the move. They are well aware that gutka use can begin at a very young age and is addictive.

In 2008 about 5 million children under 15 were addicted to Gutka. A survey in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh yielded precursor of mouth cancers in 16 percent of the children.
Unfortunately, the product is highly profitable- with a high volume-high profit profile. But the companies have such a strong financial muscle that they are able to get the decisions overturned and despite the ‘drug’ being banned in some State or the other, the profit- making machinery is working on 24/7 basis. No wonder the ‘families’ could afford to spend the astronomical sum for only a part of the wedding and proudly announced the obscene amount for bringing in the Bollywood stars.

It’s a pity that when the Constitution was made wine and Gutka were not addressed specifically and Article 47 is not important enough for the government to bring wine and Gutka in its gambit more specifically.

Meanwhile, I hope our Indian readers avoid the harmful Gutka and love Gewürztraminer or Grenache… or any other grape in the form of healthy wine (two glasses a day!)

Subhash Arora



Subhash Arora Says:

Thanks for pointing out-it IS Mizoram- I wrote even an article on the wine production being allowed there now. We don't change errors/typos  like that once published-so it stays and we stand corrected.

Posted @ November 29, 2010 16:48


Rajesh Swarnakar Says:

it is a fact that we indians don't know the difference between the ill effect of gutka chewing and benefits of moderate consumption of is considred a food according to my personal openion and should not be placed along side gutka , tobacco and spirits.i wish the authorities will one day realise this fact and lift all the unneccessary restictions on wine and clear the path for its development and the way consumption of wine is not banned in meghalaya . its the state of mizoram which is a dry state and not meghalaya as stated. cheers !

Posted @ November 29, 2010 16:28


Bahman Marzbani Says:

It is always a pleasure to receive DelWine Newsletter. It provides a somewhat clear picture of the current wine consumer market in India at the elite level. We need to address and educate the masses on the benefits of Organic and REW wines. This is missing.

Posted @ November 22, 2010 10:57


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