I would like to begin today with a story- about Sharma ji and Verma ji. Of course it is all in my imagination- but what happened to them was indeed terrible.
One day Sharma ji's son committed suicide. Much hue and cry was made over why a young boy would commit suicide. The media considered the issue at length. The Prime Minister personally visited Sharma ji with compensation. The reason behind the suicide, according to the inquiry
commission, was that the boy studied in a co-ed school. Co-ed school is one where girls and boys study together. The report elaborated thus- The girls had ridiculed the boy for some reason, and his sensitive nature could not bear the trauma.
The issue was hotly debated in the Parliament- how to save our youth from recurring suicides- but clearly the option of immediate closing down of co-ed schools could not be considered.
Some years passed by.
One day Sharma ji's friend Verma ji's son also committed suicide.
It was a sad occasion. People had gathered to console Verma ji, who was desolate. But he said he had read all the reports of Sharma ji's son's suicide. His own son was not studying in co-ed school. So Verma ji felt that the doctor was fudging facts by suggesting that his son had committed suicide.
The body was there, right in front of him, but Verma ji would not report suicide. And thus the Prime Minister did not visit Verma ji for compensation.
Sharma ji lives in Vidarbha and Verma ji in Chhattisgarh.
I don't know if this point is going across to the reader or not- but the conditions in Chhattisgarh today are very similar to Verma Ji's.
Two weeks earlier, on 8th of february, I had written in this column that according to the figures available with the National Crime Record Bureau of the Central Home Ministry, approximately 1400 landholding farmers commit suicide in Chhattisgarh every year- ie 4 farmers per day.
This does not include the numbers of those Farmers who commit suicide but are not landholders.
The reaction in Chhattisgarh was similar to the one of Verma ji.
It was said that the farmers of Vidarbha and Andhra cultivate cash crops for which they take loans. But as the farmer in Chhattisgarh cultivates paddy, for which the labour requirement is high, however high loans are not required, so the figures of farmers' suicides are fudged.
Minister of Agriculture, Sharad Pawar has accepted in the House that the figures of farmers' suicide provided by the National Crime Record Bureau are accurate. (30th November, starred question number 238, the Agriculture Minister responds to Ram Jethmalani.)
The Bureau figures do not claim that the farmers are committing suicide due to reasons related to farming. And I am not claiming that here either.
I am only requesting for a study of these figures, to probe and understand what is happening.
Rhetoric of the kind- "Are we blind, that 4 farmers committed suicide everyday and we did not know", does not serve any purpose. For seven years these figures have been available with the National Crime Record Bureau. Not a peep from any Chhattisgarhiya in the direction!
I then began an exploration for any earlier study of Farmers' Suicides in Chhattisgarh.
I know of Verier Elwin's book Maria, Murder and Suicide, in which he studied the issue of Suicide amongst the Tribes of Bastar, and found that suicide is more prevalent in Maria tribe as compared to the Muria Tribe.
Subsequently I also found out about Professor Jonathan Perry of London School of Economics. He conducted a study in 2003, about suicides in the Bhilai Region. I contacted him and he told me, "Some years back I was in Bhilai for a research project and I found that in the settlements of Bhilai where I was carrying out my survey, the incidence of suicide was above average. In fact the figures were so significantly high that I started collecting figures from the hospitals and Police Stations , although this was not the subject of my study".
Professor Perry added, "This was about the same time as news of Andhra Pradesh Farmer suicides had started streaming in. I always felt that the conclusion that loans were at the root of the Farmers' Suicides was coming from a very superficial type of study. After my Bhilaiexperience I am not surprised by the figures you quote to me about Chhattisgarh Farmers."
In the meantime, my friend Yuvraj Gajpal who is pursuing his PhD in Canada, took a deeper look at the figures of National Crime Record Bureau. He calculated the rate of Farmers' suicides in the various states, and points out the following:
That in Chhattisgarh, 6.29 farmers commit suicide per lakh of population. Maharashtra follows at 4.59, Andhra Pradesh is next with 3.42, and Karnataka stands at 3.25.
He questions why so much attention is given to suicides in Maharashtra by journalists whereas he has not read anything about suicides in Chhattisgarh!
Yuvraj continues, "In Chhattisgarh, the percentage of landowning farmers is 17% of the total population. However the figure for farmers committing suicide as a percentage of total suicides is 33%, i.e, compared to other professions, twice as many farmers in Chhattisgarh take their own lives. What is the reason?"
I thought it might be a good idea to share these figures with Professor K Nagaraj of Madras Institute of Development Studies as he has been studying the subject for many years now. Professor Nagaraj said that he has recently received the figures for the year 2003 onwards, and his analysis will be ready in a few weeks. On the face of it, he sees no mismatch in the figures.
I asked Prof Nagraj, that people in Chhattisgarh say that this is a paddy cultivation area, and not a cash crop cultivation area. So how can Farmers be committing suicide?
He laughed and said, "Please go to Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu, which is a paddy cultivation area. Many Farmers are committing suicide there. As opposed to this, the rest of Tamil Nadu has substantial cash crop production. But the rate of farmers' suicide is much lower here.
The reason is that the road network is excellent and upon crop failure, the farmer is able to find other livelihood. The only conclusion which can be drawn from this is that every problem is unique in itself."
I asked him, "Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are also paddy cultivation areas, but not many farmers commit suicide in those states as compared to Chhattisgarh"?
Prof Nagraj told me, "Chhattisgarh needs to be studied. But it is obvious that it is not comparable to the areas along the Ganga and Yamuna. Secondly a farmer does not commit suicide only because of agriculture loans- though loans may be a predominant reason. If you examine India after 1991, State help for the common man has reduced steadily, whether it is irrigation, or education. Suicides are caused by a mix of these problems."
In the end I called P Sainath of the "Hindu" newspaper who has been writing on this subject for many years. I told him that journalists in Chhattisgarh are saying these figures are fudged. Sainath said, "Its like the election results - if they do not match our expectation we say the elections are rigged. Please quote me in your article that if anyone has conducted a study and found that only one farmer is committing suicide in Chhattisgarh every year, then this State is a heaven on earth. I will advise farmers in Europe and America to shift to Chhattisgarh, because even there more farmers commit suicide than this "study" is showing".
It seems, the journalists in Chhattisgarh are behaving like Verma ji- who could not believe that his son had committed suicide because he was not studying in a co-ed school.
But will the leaders of Chhattisgarh please look into the matter? The assembly session is on, will someone please raise this issue?
4 farmers commit suicide every day.
A city dweller like me has very little understanding of Farming and Farmers. But dreams for a region's future need to include the issue related to the livelihoods of more than 80% of the people of that region.
Farmers' suicides in Chhattisgarh
2001 : 1452
2002 : 1238
2003 : 1066
2004 : 1395
2005 : 1412
2006 : 1483
source- National Crime Records Bureau of the Central Home Ministry
The Assam Times, Assam, India (21 February 2008)
The Seoul Times, Seoul, South Korea (21 February 2008)
Media for Freedom, Kathmandu, Nepal (21 February 2008)
Scoop Independent News, New Zealand (21 February 2008)
Central Chronicle, Madhya Pradesh, India
The award, bestowed by the Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals (NATT) , exposes and challenges countries for espousing treaty positions that benefit the tobacco industry at the expense of public health. The award is named after Philip Morris's notorious advertising icon, which has played a central role in spreading tobacco addiction globally. On the strength of the Marlboro Man advertising and promotional campaign, Marlboro became the world's leading cigarette brand, and Philip Morris/Altria (soon to split into Philip Morris USA and Philip Morris International) became the world's largest and most profitable tobacco transnational.
Tobacco giants accused of 'collusion' over cigarette smuggling
This includes establishing a brand presence in new markets, and getting more people addicted to cigarettes -- particularly children because smuggled tobacco is so cheap, she told journalists.
"Documents do show industry complicity in this deadly business," Mulvey added.
The World Health Organisation is meeting in
"This week, governments have a new opportunity to prioritise health over trade and commercial interests, and hold tobacco transnationals accountable for the harms they cause," Mulvey said.
The illicit tobacco trade makes up approximately 10 percent of global tobacco sales and costs governments between 40-50 billion dollars (27-34 billion euros) every year, CAI said in a statement.
In African countries such as
Smuggled tobacco constitutes a "serious public health issue in
"It's cheaper than sweets, cheaper than any other item," Oluwafemi said.
Companies such as British American Tobacco are now seeking to portray themselves as anti-smuggling, with BAT offering to supply logistical support and even vehicles to the Standards Organisation of Nigeria.
However, these moves ignore the company's "long history of smuggling into
CAI said that only a strong protocol to the WHO treaty would be effective in holding companies to account.
"If history is any indication, the tobacco industry will take every opportunity to undermine the treaty's implementation," Oluwafemi warned.
Dalit Aarthik Adhikaar Aandolan(DA3)
Dharna 27 -28 Feb 2008
Mass Rally29th Feb 2008
Jantar-Mantar, New Delhi
19 Feb 2008
The process of Budget making and the formulation of schemes and programmes do not get the voice of common people. The marginalized communities like SCs, STs, Women and Minorities are purposely driven out of the whole economic development .The Budget which will be presented on 29 February is not our budget, We boycott this Budget. We invite you to take part in the Dharna on 27 and 28 February 2008 which will be followed by the mass rally on 29 Feb.2008 at Jantar Mantar, Delhi under the Banner of SCs/STs Budget Hissedari Aandolan.
This event is the latest in the series of rallies focusing on the challenges that Scheduled Caste (SC) community is facing in the new economic environment. The aim of this rally is the social protest against the discriminatory behaviour of Union of India and States/UTs with the SC community in non allocation and non implementation of Scheduled Caste Sub Plan. In the last year there was a SCSP gap of Rs. 20280 croes of rupees – in one year alone. That too in the plan allocation only. Similarly all States and Union Territories have denied the legitimate amounts to SCs which is thousands of crores. This year there is bound to be another Rs. 45,000 crores of rupees. This is real untouchability being practiced by the Union Govt and the states in total. This is only in the allocations amounts. The actual release of the demands and the actual expenditure spend directly on the families and individuals is abysmally low.
We demand an immediate enquiry by the CAG and action against all those who are willfully causing this denial and exclusion.
Your participation will support our movement and realize the budget making from the below.
Your confirmation by return mail or by phone will be highly appreciated.
Contact Ashutosh (9958890171, email@example.com) for the further details.
Paul Divakar, National Convenor, NCDHR
National Campaign On Dalit Human Rights
8/1,2nd Floor, South Patel Nagar
NEW DELHI-110008 ( INDIA)
Ph/ Fax:- 91-11-25842249/ 25842250
North-East India: Where Army Generals become Governors
The appointment of the former Indian Army chief General Joginder Jaswant Singh (retired) as the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh state on 24 January 2008 has raised some vital questions in the minds of the conscious citizens of the Northeast.
The former Indian Army chief, Mr Singh retired last year and has now been sworn in as Arunachal Pradesh's Governor by the Indian President Ms Pratibha Patil.
Mr Singh, who was honoured with Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM), Ati Vishisht Seva Medal (AVSM) and Vishisht Seva Medal (VSM) during his four decades service in Indian Army, has joined two serving Governors in the insurgency stricken Northeast India, who are also from the Indian Army background.
Lieutenant General (retired) Ajai Singh, PVSM, AVSM took over the responsibility as the Governor of Assam state from another Lieutenant General (retired) four years back. The former Assam Governor Mr SK Sinha was transferred to Jammu and Kashmir. Another Lieutenant General (retired), who has been serving Mizoram state is MM Lakhera, PVSM, AVSM, VSM. On the other hand, the state of Tripura has a retired Indian Police Service (IPS) official Dinesh Nandan Sahaya as its Governor.
Thus four States (out of eight) in Northeast have their Governors from the background of 'Man in Uniform' – the Indian Army or Police!
A chief minister in India is identified as the head of a State government and the Governors are recognized as the Constitutional heads of the State. The Indian Constitution has given most of the political power to the chief minister, but the Governors are also empowered with some special powers under various provisions of the Constitution. While, a chief minister (with his council of ministers) of a State is directly accountable to its citizens, the Governors are normally made accountable to the President of the country only.
The Governor, under the provisions of the Indian Constitution, enjoys the right to be kept informed of all major decisions adopted by the State government. Moreover, the governor appoints the chief minister and also appoints the council of ministers of the State following the advice of the chief minister. In fact, every minister in the state cabinet takes oath from the Governor. Similarly, the governor summons the state legislature and also dissolves the legislative assembly. He addresses the legislature. Each and every bill passed by the state legislature must be endorsed by the governor before it turns out to be a state law. In a particular situation, the governor can send a report to the President of India that may invite President's rule after dissolving the State Legislative Assembly.
However, there are plentiful examples in India, where the difference of opinions between a chief minister and Governor has made the political equation sour. The Governors are usually kept above the public sphere. But at times, the Governors virtually shed negative influence in the socio-political development of a state. In reality, those Governors serve the vested interest of some strong lobby of the Union Government, which is against the spirit of the constitution.
The repeated appointment of the Army Generals as the Governors of many Northeastern States raises the vital question, whether New Delhi prefers to maintain a second epicenter of power in the States, notwithstanding for the interest of the Nation.
The Northeast has a volatile stew of militant organizations, most of them ethnically based. According to some counts, there are as many as 35 such groups in the region, some of them Islamist. Armed groups use the jungles of southern Bangladesh and northern Burma as their hideouts and training camps. The land-locked region has slowly turned into a land of extortion, explosions and assassinations by the militants. New Delhi is definitely worried with the development and many times it has gone trouncing the elected State governments of the region, whenever the question of territory has emerged.
One classic example that reflects the attitude of New Delhi towards the people of Northeast is the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) which has been in affect in the region for five decades now.
The AFSPA empowers the security forces to arrest people without warrant, and use excessive force (including shooting or killing, even if the lives of the members of the security force are not at imminent risk). It facilitates impunity because no person can initiate legal action against any member of the armed forces for anything done under the Act, without permission of the central government.
It will be a very difficult task to find an example anywhere in the democratic world, where a draconian law like AFSPA could continue for such a long period even after mass uprising against it.
New Delhi had earlier ignored the recommendations of a recent committee to repeal the black law. The Justice Jeevan Reddy Commission (2004), which organized public hearings in various parts of Northeast, recommended the repeal of AFSPA, but the government was not convinced.
So whenever there is news of the appointment of a retired General as a Governor in Northeast, the pertinent question that arises is whether New Delhi always prefers to treat the region as a war zone?
As in a battlefield, the central government seems to make it a habit not to take the State governments into confidence in case of counter insurgency operations. And hence, the region has been poured with the ex 'Man in Uniform' as the constitutional heads of the States, so that New Delhi continues to enjoy the last say in managing the troubled zone, where larger section of conscious population still nurture anti-New Delhi sentiment even after 60 years of India's Independence.
(The author is a Guwahati (Northeast India) based independent journalist and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Seoul Times, Seoul, South Korea (18 February 2008)
Radio Asha: Audio capsules in hindi/ urdu on people’s movements
To listen, click here
Tune in to Radio Asha, listen while walking, cooking, gardening… to download on your computer/ mobile phone/ MP3 players/ iPods, click here or go to:http://www.archive.org/download/RadioAsha14February2008/RadioAsha1.mp3
The Global Tobacco Epidemic Report (2008) of World Health Organization underlines not only the evidence-based fact that tobacco epidemic is worsening but also recommends a comprehensive package of six-effective tobacco control policies – clubbed as ‘MPOWER’ that have demonstrated results in helping countries stop the diseases, deaths and economic damages caused by tobacco use.
However the global tobacco epidemic stands starkly apart from other conventional disease control programmes because of an aggressive tobacco industry that is hell-bent on protecting and expanding its markets globally, particularly in the developing countries of Asia and
The MPOWER package includes:
M: stands for ‘monitor’ tobacco use and prevention policies (not the tobacco corporations). Assessment of tobacco use and its impact must be strengthened.
P: stands for ‘protect’ people from tobacco smoke. All people have a fundamental right to breathe clean air. Smoke-free places are essential to protect non-smokers and also to encourage smokers to quit.
O: stands for ‘offer’ help to quit tobacco use. Services to treat tobacco dependence are fully available in only nine countries with 5% of the world’s population. Countries must establish programmes providing low-cost, effective interventions for tobacco users who want to quit.
W: stands for ‘warn’ about the dangers of tobacco use. Despite conclusive evidence, relatively few tobacco users understand the full extent of their health risk. Graphic warnings on tobacco packaging deter tobacco use, yet only 15 countries, representing 6% of the world’s population, mandate pictorial warnings (covering at least 30% of the principal surface area) and just five countries with a little over 4% of the world’s people, meet the highest standards for pack warnings. More than 40% of the world’s population lives in countries that do not prevent use of misleading and deceptive terms such as ‘light’ and ‘low tar’.
E: stands for ‘enforce’ bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. Partial bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, do not work because the industry merely redirects its resources to other non-regulated marketing channels. Only a total ban can reduce tobacco consumption and protect people, particularly youth, from industry marketing tactics. Only 5% of the world’s population currently lives in countries with comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
R: stands for ‘raised’ taxes on tobacco. Raising taxes and therefore prices, is the most effective way to reduce tobacco use, and especially to discourage young people from using tobacco. Only 4 countries, representing 2% of the world’s population, have tax rates greater than 75% of retail price.
“Reversing this entirely preventable epidemic must now rank as a top priority for public health and for political leaders in every country of the world” said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO in the summary.
But without holding tobacco corporations accountable and monitoring them stringently to ensure that every component of MPOWER works with the utmost impact, reversing the global tobacco epidemic shall remain a daunting challenge.
Tobacco corporations across the world have been not only aggressively protecting and promoting their tobacco markets, particularly in the developing countries, but also trying their best to either abort or weaken the public health policies that begin to take shape in countries around the world.
“Big Tobacco's interference in health policy is one of the greatest threats to the treaty's implementation and enforcement. Philip Morris/Altria, British American Tobacco (BAT) and Japan Tobacco (JT) use their political influence to weaken, delay and defeat tobacco control legislation around the world. While the industry claims to have changed its ways, it continues to use sophisticated methods to undermine meaningful legislation” had said Kathy Mulvey of Corporate Accountability International at the recent meeting last year on the global tobacco treaty – the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
FCTC, or the first public health and corporate accountability treaty, is a testimony that more than 150 countries globally are committed to decimating the global tobacco epidemic. The WHO’s MPOWER package of six-effective tobacco control policies gives a road map to reduce tobacco use.
The alert monitoring of tobacco corporations and holding them accountable for violating existing health policies in present and the past will complement the impact of the MPOWER package in reducing tobacco use globally.
She interviewed delegates at the 5th National Congress on AIDS in Argentina. 61.4% of the interviewed participants had a university degree and 33.3% of them worked in public hospitals as health care providers.To her question "Do you know any AIDS prevention method exclusively for woman'?s use?" 2.4% of women and 5.4% of men respondents, named Microbicides. When specifically asked "Do you know Microbicides?" 24% of women respondents and 29.7% of men respondents, replied in the affirmative.
Dr.Charles J.N.Lacey, Faculty member of the Imperial College, London, had a poster presentation on "PRO 2000 achieves potentially protective levels against HIV in cervico-vaginal secretions." He said that there was no evidence of systemic absorption of PRO 2000. He also marked out the caveats in his research and said that participants were healthy women who were neither sexually active nor menstruating, and whether systemic absorption can take place in other contexts is not known. He also pointed out the factors that may affect or alter the concentrations of Microbicides required for effective prevention during vaginal coitus. He said more research is needed to evaluate microbicide efficacy during female arousal, which may cause additional dilution effects. The mechanical effects of coitus in removing microbicides bearing vaginal secretions needs to be looked at further, although there was a MRI?? study presented at Microbicides 2002 in this regard, recently in Antwerp, Belgium.
Another interesting poster presentation was of Dr. JM Brown titled "The Acceptability of Vaginal Microbicides Use and Study : Men and Women in Malawi and Zimbabwe".One of the Malawi male participants said, "I notice a increase in vaginal fluid, and feel good having sex when vagina is wet. I thought vaginal passage was tight and with more fluid. It increases friction, which enhances sexual act. Sexual pleasure while using gel is much more than while using condoms because gel facilitates body to body contact? Another female Malawi participant said "gel increases the heat during penetration and makes sex more enjoyable".
Addressing a big debate on intravaginal practices among women in Malawi and Zimbabwe, Dr.Brown said that most of the female participants agreed "It is unhygienic not to finger cleanse". She quoted a women participant who said "I broke the rules when it came to finger cleansing because if I don't finger cleanse, I won?t even be able to go anywhere. I feel as if everyone can see that I didn't wash, as if I am having discharges. So I didn't agree with it and broke the rule!?
There was another poster presentation on intravaginal practices (IVP) by H.Jones of the Population Council - Intravaginal practices by Phase II Carraguard trial participants in South Africa. Jones reported what IVP can mean to trial participants - cleansing the inside of the vagina, wipe/dry??, tightening or warming during sex, lubrication during sex, control of menstrual flow, treatment of infections, prevention of pregnancy or STI's or the induction of abortions.
Cleansing, drying and tightening practices are common in 11 countries in Africa, Indonesia, Thailand, Qatar, Dominian Republic, Haiti and US. IVP are most likely more widespread than currently documented, said Jones.
Commenting on the relationship between HIV/STI's and IVP, Jones said that there are three potential mechanisms for IVP that affect the risk of contracting STI's which include that IVP's may dry or irritate cervical and vaginal mucosa increasing the likelihood of epithelial disruption (but there is no evidence), they may interfere with healthy vaginal flora like lactobacilli (studies have shown douching increases the risk of BV (bacterial vaginosis) and BV is linked to HIV, and lastly they may interfere with the acceptability and efficacy of barrier methods including microbicides.
Therefore Jones recommended that Phase III trials must explicitly instruct the women participants not to insert anything vaginally between the insertion of gel and sexual intercourse. Marianne Callahan of CONRAD and Lee Claypool of USAID who had a poster presentation on C31G and Carraguard microbicide product leads also spoke on male tolerance of Microbicides. Marianne said that they have conducted four studies involving men, and the fifth one is underway currently. The previous four studies were with microbicide candidates PRO 2000, buffer gel, cellulose sulphate and C31G. The fifth one, which is currently going on, is with polystyrene sulphonate. There was no major or serious side effect of microbicides reported by men, and only minor irritations including tingling and stinging were reported.
Jayashankar Pandey, Asha Parivar
A 20 years old daughter of social activists V.K. Rai and Pushpa Rai, associated with Centre for Environment and Rural Technology (CERT), was kidnapped on the morning of 5 February 2008 from Bhadohi in Sant Ravi Das Nagar of U.P.
She was on way to her college, Kashi Naresh Rajkiya Snatakottar Mahavidyalaya in Gyanpur, the district headquarters, where she is a student of B.A. II year. A case has been registered at Kotwali, Gyanpur under section (u/s) 303 and 366 on the evening of 5 February 2008.
V.K. Rai and Pushpa Rai have been recently involved in raising the issue of Santoshi, daughter of a carpet weaver, who has been sexually exploited for many years by a powerful carpet manufacturer Ghulam Rasool. Santoshi also has a 2.5 years son from Ghulam Rasool and is presently pregnant with another baby. She has been the victim of Ghulam Rasool’s sexual exploitation since she was 13-14 years. When she delivered the first baby, she was given a place to stay by Ghulam Rasool. However, last year Ghulam Rasool’s sons found out about Santoshi and expelled her from that house. She now lives in a makeshift bamboo-hay structure. She insisted that Ghulam Rasool should marry her. When he refused, she went and complained to the authorities. A FIR has been registered against Ghulam Rasool for raping a minor.
V.K. Rai and Pushpa Rai had instituted a fact finding mission in this matter and were helping Santoshi fight for her rights. They had also announced a sit-in outside Santoshi’s present habitation and in front of Ghulam Rasool’s residence on 7 February 2008 along with other social organizations. Two days before this dharna their daughter was kidnapped. They believe that Ghulam Rasool is responsible for this act.
The Rai family is spending sleepless nights imagining worst possible things with their daughter. They deserve all our support in this hour of grief. We hope that their daughter will return to them soon. We are in continuous communication with the administration and police and they are making their best possible effort to trace her.
Chandauli (presently in Bhadohi)
creative liberties of Shahrukh Khan
Indian film-star Shahrukh Khan’s explanation of his right to ‘creative liberties’ to justify portrayal of tobacco use in Indian cinema has sparked a huge row with India’s health minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss’ appeal to film-stars to refrain from using tobacco on-screen and also in public places.
Tobacco is reported to kill more than a million people in
It is indeed a moral imperative on the Government of India to protect the right to life and good health of its young citizens, especially from public health and social justice point-of-view.
“One of the easiest ways to significantly bring down number of children and youth who get initiated to tobacco use in India, without any budgetary allocation for this public health exercise, is to remove depiction of tobacco use in films and TV”, had rightly said Dr Ramadoss at the last World Conference on Tobacco or Health in USA.
One of the major influences on the uptake of teen tobacco use is the glamourisation of tobacco use in movies and on television. This has been well documented by comprehensive research studies in
In an earlier study done by World Health Organization and Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in 2003 it was revealed that 76% of Indian movies had tobacco use shown in them. In 1991, where 22% of top box office movie hits had lead characters using tobacco on-screen, in 2002, this escalated to 53% tobacco use depiction by lead characters in Indian movies. This study also demonstrated that 52.2% of children in
A repeat follow-up study conducted by WHO and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India on top box office movie hits during 2004-2005 demonstrated that tobacco use depiction in movies has become more aggressive as compared to previous years. During 2004-2005, 89% of all movies analyzed contained tobacco use on screen and 75.5% movies depicted leading stars using tobacco on screen. Moreover 41% of movies screened had clear and distinct tobacco brand placement.
Dr Ramadoss says categorically that stopping depiction of tobacco use in films is an evidence based public health measure, and that is what he has been strongly advocating since May 31, 2005.
Dr Ramadoss had also said "film and tobacco industry are hands-in-glove involved" and suggested big pay-offs too.
The Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act 2003 came into effect since May 31, 2003. Explaining the amendments notified on May 31, 2005, Dr Ramadoss had said that movies showing tobacco use will be given 'A' certificate on the condition that the characters using tobacco on screen agree to do a disclosure stating tobacco hazards clearly either before, middle or before the end of that movie.
Health warnings in the same language as that of the movie would start scrolling up 1 minute before the use of tobacco is depicted in movies and will end not before another minute after the depiction of tobacco use stops in that movie.
Exposure to tobacco use in movies is clearly linked to youth tobacco use. Simply put, more must be done to ensure that tobacco use in movies is removed from films seen by our nation's youth. We have within our power one simple and effective way to jump start the decline in youth tobacco use - delete tobacco use in films from the list of influences that rob our youth of longer and healthier lives by removing tobacco use from movies, unless they clearly depict the negative health effects. Together we can ensure that movies continue to entertain and inspire our children and youth, and at the same time, save countless lives from tobacco addiction and premature death. The right to life must overrule the right to ‘creative liberty’ of film-stars.
Scoop Independent News, New Zealand (8 February 2008)
Central Chronicle, Madhya Pradesh, India (9 February 2008)
The Statesman, India (13 February 2008)
The Seoul Times, South Korea (13 February 2008)