By AMITA VERMA
Lucknow–After the opening of stand-alone liquor shops in Uttar Pradesh, it is the “paan” lovers who are now demanding that the paan shops also be allowed to function so that they can savour their favourite not just taste but also for health benefits.
The Yogi Adityanath government has already banned the manufacture and sale of “gutkha” and “paan masala” in the state and those addicted to this, are now clamouring for paan, which is supposedly a healthier option.
According to Ayurveda experts, chewing paan after meals eases digestion as it increases secretion of the digestive juices, reduces bloating of stomach, relieves constipation and destroys intestinal parasites.
A senior bureaucrat, who did not wish to be named, said, “I was addicted to ‘gutkha’ but the lockdown has helped me give up the habit. However, I do have cravings at times and it would be good if the government allows sale of paan. In fact, paan will help many others give up gutkha, which is more harmful.”
Kamal Chaurasia, who owns a tiny paan shop in Hazratganj, said that since the past 40 days, he had no earnings. “We are about to finish our savings and if the government does not allow paan shops to reopen, I am finished because I do not have money left to start another venture,” he said.
Kamal said that he earned about Rs 2,000 per day and made a neat profit of about Rs 700 to 800 per day.
“My sales dropped after a nearby cinema hall shut business. Earlier, I used to earn almost double of my present income,” he said.
He disclosed that some of his ‘regular’ clients had already shifted to another paan shop owner who was clandestinely supplying paan masala and gutkha to them through a vegetable vendor during the lockdown.
Suresh Agnihotri, a businessman and paan addict, said that without paan, life does not seem complete.
“I used to keep a ‘paan daan’ at home and would bring my stock of paan to the shop. But now, betel leaves are no longer available and I can even sense a loss of concentration ever since I have stopped eating paan”, he said.
Pushkar Pratap Singh, who runs a family paan cafe in the Ashiana locality in Lucknow, said that his venture had proved to be a success because women started frequenting it.
“Women usually love ‘meetha paan’ but do not want to visit the local ‘paanwallah’. The cafe is hygienic, spacious and has a good clientele. We have families visiting us and we feel that the ban on paan is unjustified because betel leaf farming is also big business in Uttar Pradesh,” he said.
With the lockdown, the betel leaf farming has also taken a hit.
Betel leaves are wilting on the vines in Mahoba, which is the hub of betel leaf cultivation.
“Betel leaves are harvested in March and April, but the lockdown has had an adverse impact on farmers. There is no demand and no supply. The wedding season meant a peak in demand for betel leaves, but we have no takers now,” said Sudhir Chaurasia, a cultivator.
The state has approximately 150,000 betel leaf cultivators. According to the state horticulture department, betel leaf trade in the state has an annual turnover of about Rs 1,000 crore.
Meanwhile, according to a state government spokesman, government is not too inclined to allow paan shops to reopen since spitting has been banned as a safety protocol and paan eaters are usually prone to spitting.