02:10 GMT25 June 2021
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    New Delhi (Sputnik): As a precautionary measure against the further spread of the coronavirus, 1.37 billion Indians have been locked down since 25 March. But many Indians have broken with the restrictions, either to hunt for a pack of cigarettes or a can of beer. The rule-breakers mainly seem to be driven by a mixture of addiction and anxiety.

    India is home to 12 percent of the total population of smokers in the world – around 120 million people, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Many have been forced to break the hotline to feed their habit.

    Under the lockdown, local grocery stores have been allowed to sell essential goods to people, but seem to be making quick profits on the side by facilitating what seems like a “secret” sale of tobacco items at double normal prices.

    For instance, one cheap domestic pack of 10 cigarettes which by MRP costs INR 60 ($0.78 approx), is currently being sold for INR 120 ($1.57) in local grocery stores.

    ​Industry and research experts also told Sputnik that storing and selling at high rates at a time of crisis is a typical local market trend. They said, the extra “black money” would further worsen the corruption situation in the country.

    According to analysts, if tobacco and alcohol shops are open, police could ensure social distancing and the sale of these items at normal prices.  

    ​“Well, the rates are being monitored by others also involved in this chain. Besides, selling cigarettes for us is also not safe, yet we are because people want them. It’s a risky business for us. If you want, this is the price,” a shopkeeper told Sputnik on condition of anonymity.

    Recently, a petition is doing the rounds on social media, urging the government to allow cigarettes and alcohol sales during the lockdown which has been extended until 3 March – and is subject to further review.

    “Around 70% of the Indian population is addicted to smoking and chewing tobacco. All the shops selling tobacco has also been locked down, which are forcing the people (especially young generation) to step out of the house on a hunt to relieve their stress. They are putting their own-self in danger and obviously the other too. Vendors who are providing the cigarettes and tobacco are doing it illegally and at 50 or 60% more price,” the petition page on change.org reads.

    ​Foreigners along with Indians are citing the example of India’s Kerala state, where the sale of alcohol has been allowed after some alcoholics committed suicide. After the sale of alcohol was permitted, the number of lockdown violators dropped in the state.

     

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    Tags:
    lockdown, coronavirus, COVID-19, alcohol, Cigarettes, India
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