Sustained efforts of the members of a village in Andhra Pradesh have paid off as the place would be declared tobacco-free on May 31, the sources said. The announcement would be made on May 31, which is celebrated as the World No Tobacco Day.
Pongalipaka, a village with a population of 1,632 people, located in Madugula mandal and about 48 km from Hyderabad, will be declared a tobacco free village on May 31. It is a joint initiative of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and ‘Nature’.
According to Pongalipaka sarpanch (village-head) U Demudu N Satyanaryana, efforts in this direction began on August 15 2011 when it was decided that no villager would be allowed to chew tobacco and tobacco-based products like khaini and gutka.
The villagers held a meeting (gram sabha) and adopted a resolution to impose heavy penalty on those found smoking or chewing tobacco, gutka, khaini and other such products. Under a joint initiative of PHFI and ‘Nature’, all the shops, selling tobacco in the village were asked to stop doing so.
By November 2011 no tobacoo were sold in the village and shopkeepers diverted to other businesses, the sarpanch said. Pongalipaka had bagged Nirmal Gram Puraskar in 2007 for maintaining good hygiene and sanitation.
“We are very happy with the outcome of our sustained campaign and we are confident that 10 more villages in the district of GK Veedhi, Anantagiri, Paderu, Atchutapuram, Chintapalle and Koyyuru mandals would also be tobacco-free soon,” a PHFI spokesperson said.
The campaign has been implemented for a period of four years in six districts of Andhra Pradesh and parts of Gujarat with sanction of $5 million by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Apart from Visakhapatnam, the campaign is being implemented under Strengthening of Tobacco Control Efforts using Innovative Partnerships and Strategies (STEPS) project in East Godavari, Prakasham, Karimnagar, Mahabubnagar and Kurnool.