Surat’s diamond industry may be famous for its sparkle, but there is also a black side to it – the massive consumption of tobacco and its products by diamond polishers. To free the workers from vicious circle of tobacco addiction, Surat Diamond Association (SDA) initiated a process, with help from Surat Police and the city’s civic body. A seminar was organised, where diamond polishers were educated about the ill-effects of tobacco.
The seminar was organised at Community Hall in Katargam, where hundreds of diamond polishers were asked to take an oath of not chewing or using tobacco products. The seminar was attended by top office bearers of SDA, police and Surat’s civic body.
While civic officials showed ill-effects of tobacco through videos, slides and photographs, SDA guided diamond polishers of deaths taking place due to tobacco consumption.
“7-8 diamond polishers out of 10 consume tobacco, especially maavaa – betel nut mixed with katha, lime and tobacco. This not only affects their health, but also their work capacity. A diamond polisher easily consumes 5-8 maavaas daily, which is a serious threat to his life,” Dinesh Navadia, president of SDA, said.
The seminar is part of a series of programmes conducted by Tambaku Niyantran Samithi, an initiative of the state government to reduce the use of tobacco by people. “Varachha, Katargam and Ved Road are suffering most from ill-effects of tobacco, as majority of people in these areas consume maavaa, at work as well as home. We have seen many deaths of diamond polishers – most of them due to cancer,” Navadia added.
Diamond polishers who have a maavaa habit are highly prone to cancer. Many of them begin consuming it at ages as young as 15-17 years as chewing maavaa is considered a ‘manly’ act among Saurashtrian and Kathiawadi communities.
“A person chewing maavaa for 5-6 years is very very likely to test positive for cancer in coming 3-4 years. Many youths, especially diamond polishers are rapidly being diagnosed with the fatal disease,” head of Lions Cancer Research Institute in Surat, S Srivasatava said.
Srivastava added that prolonged consumption of tobacco damages muscles of face and mouth can’t open wide enough to have solid food. Person is forced on liquid food.