Patna, Jun 9: The Nitish Kumar government is reportedly planning to ban khaini or chewing tobacco in Bihar, two years since liquor was banned in the state. In this regard, the state health department has written to the Centre requesting it to notify khaini as a food product after which the government will be free to impose a complete ban on it on health grounds, a media report has claimed. Also Read - Bihar Assembly Elections 2020: NDA is One, Will Contest Polls Together, Says Ravi Shankar Prasad

In Bihar, 25.9 per cent population use tobacco in different forms and 20.4 per cent of them are addicted to chewing tobacco, the Global Adult Tobacco Survey-2 of 2016-17 states. Also Read - Ahead of Bihar Polls, CM Nitish Kumar Promises Rs 25K to Girls Passing Intermediate Exams, Rs 50K to Those Who Graduate

On the other hand, SEEDS (Socio-Economic and Educational Development Society) has also written to the health department to include khaini as a food product under Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). Also Read - Bihar Assembly Election 2020 Full Schedule: Polling to Take Place in 3 Phases From October 28, Results on November 10

The news has been confirmed by Bihar Principal Secretary (Health) Sanjay Kumar, who while speaking to a TV channel said, once khaini is added in the list of food products by FSSAI, it will be easy to impose a complete ban on it. He also informed that every fifth person in Bihar is a consumer of raw tobacco.

Even a few political leaders in Bihar are addicted to khaini, the most famous being RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, who is known for chewing khaini. Reports suggest that Lalu used to get home cooked food and khaini from Patna when he was in jail the last time, serving the fodder scam sentence.

Meanwhile, if the ban is imposed, khaini farmers will be adversely affected. Notably, Bihar is the sixth largest tobacco producing state in the country. khaini is also grown in Samastipur, Vaishali, Muzaffarpur, Darbangha and Sitamarhi.

If political gurus are to be believed, the move may force tobacco farmers shift towards Lalu Prasad Yadav-led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). Till now, they have been voting for Janata Dal United (JDU) and National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the state. Notably, the Nitish government, in October 2013, announced a tax exemption on khaini after demands made by farmers.

As a precautionary measure, the Bihar government will reportedly make alternate arrangements for the farmers if ban is imposed.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, on 26 November 2015, announced that alcohol would be banned in the state from 1 April 2016. He officially declared the total ban on 5 April 2016. “All type of liquor will be banned in the state from today. Sale and consumption of any type of alcohol in hotels, bars, clubs and any other place will be illegal from today onwards,” he said. Violating the law carries a penalty of 5 years to 10 years imprisonment. Sale of ghutka and pan masala, too, is banned in Bihar since May 2016.