Health hazard for Mumbai's Urdu school
Gutkha and tobacco consumption amongst the Muslim students of Urdu medium schools in Mumbai is posing a severe health hazard.
With school-going students getting an open access to Gutkha, an addictive substance, through shops and open outlets, it is becoming increasingly difficult for parents and teachers alike to stem the rot.
Gutkha is a preparation of betel nuts and tobacco designed to be chewed. It originated in the Indian Subcontinent, where gutkha consumption is widespread today, and has spread from here to areas with a large Indian population. Like other tobacco products, gutkha is potentially addictive and cancerous, and in India, some moves have been made to restrict the availability of gutkha to address health concerns, but without success so far.
A recent survey by Islamic Voice in association with Trend Research and Analysis Centre (TRAC) revealed that, a significant section of the Urdu medium school-going children aged between 8 and 14 are consuming gutkha and tobacco in different forms including pan masalas and even bidis and cigarettes.
According to the TRAC survey 36 % of Muslim students out of the sample of 251 respondents have consumed tobacco products. Majority of these children were from impoverished neighborhoods. 60 %, who consumed gutkha, consumed between 2 to 4 packets a day.
Dr. Abdul Wahab, a practicing pediatrician at a health clinic in Kurla said, “This habit greatly enhances the risk of diseases like lung and oral cancer among children. Children are more susceptible to the ill effects of these addictive substances than matured people. Consequently, immediate steps have to be ensured to eliminate this future threat.”
The parents of the addict children are also a worried lot. Rauf Patel, father of a 10-year old son said, “There is always the possibility of young brains getting allured by momentary pleasures. So, I always fear that my son might be influenced by his friends in the school under the grip of this affliction.”
According to health department sources, nearly 50 % of the oral cancers in Mumbai are caused due to consumption of tobacco and gutkha. Of these, 30 % is caused due to consumption of different pan masalas. In addition, it has been evidenced that children of the city take these dreaded substances mostly in the form of pan masalas. Thus, the health department fears a major health catastrophe if the present condition continues unabated.
A number of Urdu medium schools in the city have taken a no-tolerance attitude towards tobacco and gutkha and consequently a number of steps have been envisaged. A teacher in Anjuman i islam at Kurla School, said, “If gutkha or tobacco in any form is found with a pupil, he or she is immediately detained and their parent are called to the school.”
With the incidences of sustained cough, oral decay is rising among the kids. A lot of health experts believe that this is happening because of the proliferation in tobacco and gutkha consumption and hence, the issue should be immediately addressed for the greater good of the future generation.
The number can get more shocking. The only way to stop the consumption is by educating the masses. Also, one must understand that it needs equal persuasion, guidance and support to help someone give up this habit. It's not only the numbers that is disturbing, but also the fact that most gutkha users are unaware of the fact that it is an addictive and harmful habit.
The list of shocking details doesn't stop here. So far, ghutka is largely ignored, and there is no regulated body in India that works against the consumption of this deadly mouth freshener.
Help and support from family and friends can be the biggest factor, although a student who is a victim of drug abuse or alcohol may not seem grateful at first. Down the line, people recovering from addiction will appreciate the help and intervention of family and friends. The hardest part for the addicts is recognizing the difficult truth. Again, however, recognizing the symptoms and getting help as soon as possible are the keys to starting an abuser on the road to recovery and a better life.