Lured by high profits, cultivators in Rajbari have increased the production of tobacco instead of traditional Rabi crops. As a result, cultivation of wheat and rice has decreased in the said area. The rapid growth of tobacco cultivation has also given rise to child labourers which have poised concerns for the locality. The cultivators are directly under the patronage of British-American Tobacco (BAT), who is providing farmers with the necessary seeds and fertilizers alongside promises of buying the cultivated crops at a high price.
Tobacco, used in different types of cigarettes is harmful for the human body. Furthermore, as tobacco production increases in Rajbari, doctors in the locality have expressed concerns on health of children attracting diseases like cancer and asthma. On the other hand, farmers and labourers are also facing health hazards while cultivating this deadly crop. The air of the locality is being polluted while drying of the tobacco leaves.
Farmers are drying tobacco leaves in their home; the practice in itself is harmful to them and their family as well. Cultivating tobacco has also reduced the fertility of the soil thus hampering production of other crops. In spite of all its demerits, farmers plan to increase the production of tobacco citing huge profit.
Many of them have stated that cultivation of tobacco poise no problem as the leaves can be plucked by women and children. In addition, BAT buys the cultivated tobacco at BDT 100 per kg after the harvest providing double profit when compared to Rabi crops. As a bleak future looms over Rajbari, locals are urging authorities concerned to take necessary steps to prevent such malpractices.
For now no steps are being taken as there are no laws in the country preventing cultivation of tobacco and similar demerit goods. What can be done however, is discourage farmers from cultivating this harmful crop through highlighting the negative impact it has on health and the environment.
Government subsidies and assistance will encourage farmers to cultivate Rabi crops once again. As reports indicate a rise in number of smokers in coming years, levying higher taxes on tobacco product would discourage people from buying them thus decreasing demands for tobacco.
With several countries across the world suffering from a smoking epidemic, it is time we take necessary steps to prevent such waves causing ripple in our society.