Thai Rock Band Urges Youth to stay away from Cigarettes

Thai Rock Band Urges Youth to stay away from Cigarettes
Jittima Jantanamalaka



A Thai Rock Band group by the name of Mulatto is really creating waves these days in Thailand. It can really be called a smoke free and environment friendly band, as all its members are non smokers. They come from different backgrounds but all have one thing in common – none of them ever liked the smell of cigarettes. It always made them feel dizzy, and not euphoric, as their music does.

Rock band members are generally supposed to be ‘cool guys’ and are very often role models of the youngsters. Well the four members of this band are musicians with a mission --- the mission to spread awareness about the lethal hazards of smoking.

Despite growing up in a society which thrives on cigarettes, they have shunned this evil since their childhood. They were drawn to music instead, since early childhood.

The singing voice of the band, Nat Sonkasertrin (M), was brought up in a slum, which abounded with smokers. Yet from his early childhood he decided not to smoke as the cigarette smoke always irritated his eyes and throat.

His father was a confirmed smoker; puffing away two packs a day, since the age of sixteen. By the time he was 50 years old, he developed lung cancer and has hence been deprived of one of his lungs. His sufferings proved to be a blessing in disguise for his son M, who vowed never to light a cigarette.

Ton, the drummer had childhood friends who smoked. Once, one of his friends was injured, along with many others due to an accident caused by smoking.

This year on ‘World No Tobacco Day’, the WHO has focused its attention on pictorial health warnings on tobacco packs, as 5.4 million people worldwide continue to be snapped down by preventable diseases caused by smoking. In fact, this year the ‘Action On Smoking and Health Foundation’ (ASH) from Thailand was awarded internationally for its efforts in enforcing pictorial warnings on cigarette packs. Yet, according to the Ministry of Health Thailand, the country has 9.5 million smokers, out of which 1.27 million are youths. Increasing the price of cigarettes too has not been much of a deterrent. But perhaps gory pictures on cigarette packs will have more profound effect on the smokers’ psyche.

Bands like Mulatto can really act as brand ambassadors for anti smoking campaigns. Its members mince no words when they compare cigarettes to narcotics, and one of them feels that smoking should be made illegal. Despite the high risks involved, adolescents continue to be drawn to smoking, sometimes due to peer pressure and sometimes to simply make a fashion statement, thinking it is cool to smoke. Movie stars shown smoking in films, (like the one named 2499, about Thai mafia) add fuel to the desire of smoking, as the youth always try to emulate them.

Mulatto carries its message to all its concert shows, asking the young audience, in a very subtle way to quit smoking. Rather than condemn or force, they talk to them with sincerity. They tell them, ‘We care about you and we love you. So for the sake of friendship please do not smoke.’ Beautiful thoughts indeed! Since they are in a very cool and happening profession, their abstinence at once awes and inspires their audience.

Let us hope on this No Tobacco Day that there will be more such dedicated artists, urging people to make music instead of smoke.

Jittima Jantanamalaka

[The author is the Director of Jay Inspire, Thailand]

Related clip by Jay Inspire, Thailand:
World No Tobacco Day 2009: Youth & Tobacco Health Warning(with English sub-title)

Strictly enforce smoke-free policies! Quit tobacco before it’s too late

Strictly enforce smoke-free policies! Quit tobacco before it’s too late

There was a growing consensus to strictly enforce smoke-free policies at the public symposium organized by the department of Surgery, Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University to mark the World No Tobacco Day. Vice Chancellor Prof (Dr) Saroj Chooramani Gopal and Justice Shabibul Hasnain were the chief guests, and Superintendent of Police (SP) City Harish Kumar was the guest of honour.

“Scientific evidence has unequivocally established that tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke causes death, disease and disability. There is clear scientific evidence that prenatal exposure to tobacco smoke causes adverse health and developmental conditions for children. Secondhand smoke exposure causes heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmoking adults. Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their heart disease risk by 25–30% and their lung cancer risk by 20–30%.There is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure. India enforced the ban on smoking in public places on 2 October 2008 and we must join hands to implement it effectively” said Prof (Dr) Saroj Chooramani Gopal.

“Effective pictorial warnings can save lives” said Professor (Dr) Rama Kant, Head of Surgery Department, CSMMU and a World Health Organization (WHO) International Awardee for the year 2005 on tobacco control.

“Pictorial health warnings are most effective way of broadcasting health messages across wide spectrum of population about the adverse health effects of tobacco use. Pictorial warning labels detract from the glamour and appeal of tobacco products and help to create an environment where ‘tobacco-free’ is the norm” said Prof Rama Kant.

“Effective warning labels increase knowledge about risks associated with tobacco use more effectively than text-only warnings. In a country like India where one-third of the population is illiterate, pictorial warnings can communicate health messages effectively and prevent uptake and motivate tobacco user to quit” further added Prof Rama Kant. “Countries with strong and effective pictorial warnings are experiencing major reduction in tobacco use” explained Prof Rama Kant.

However in India the pictorial warnings that are going to be implemented from 31 May 2009 are mild, weak and not field tested, said Professor (Dr) Rama Kant. As per the new rules notified on May 3, 2009, pictorial warnings would be displayed only on the 40% of the principal display area of the front panel of all tobacco packs (only ONE side of tobacco pack).

“Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the world. According to the World Health Organization, each year 5.4 million lives are lost all over the world because of tobacco use. Out of these 9 lakh deaths occur in India alone. 2500 Indians lose their lives each day because of tobacco use. India has the highest number of oral cancer cases in the world and 90% of all oral cancers are tobacco related and 40% of all cancers in India are due to tobacco use” said Dr Vinod Jain, Assistant Professor in Surgery department, CSMMU, and Vice-President of Indian Medical Association (IMA) Lucknow.

Posters on grow without tobacco theme were also displayed. An elocution engaging school students against tobacco took place as well. Many NGOs including Bharat Vikas Parishad, UP Voluntary Health Association, Abhinav Bharat Foundation, Samadhan, Asha Parivar, Indian Society Against Smoking (ISAS) and others too part.

Pictorial Health Warnings on all Tobacco Products in India from May 31, 2009

Pictorial Health Warnings on all Tobacco Products in India from May 31, 2009

India would be joining the league of public health champions by implementing pictorial health warning on all tobacco product packages from May 31, 2009, which also coincides with World No Tobacco Day and its theme “Show the Truth, Picture Warnings Saves Lives”.

Pictorial health warning labels effectively communicate the risks of tobacco use. Extensive research from across the globe has established that effective health warnings increase knowledge about risks associated with tobacco use and can decrease intentions to use tobacco among vulnerable youth and persuade tobacco users to quit. Graphic warnings have a greater impact than text-only ones and can be recognized by low-literacy audiences and children-two vulnerable population groups. The warnings have been introduced in several developing and countries such as Thailand, Singapore, Brazil, Chile, South Africa and others.

According to Ms. Monika Arora, Director-HRIDAY (Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth), a member NGO of AFTC (Advocacy Forum for Tobacco Control), engaged in youth centric tobacco control awareness and advocacy campaigns, and Convenor AFTC- “To save lives of millions of people from tobacco related deaths and diseases, AFTC has been instrumental in undertaking collaborative advocacy campaign with Parliamentarians at the center for effective implementation of pictorial health warnings on all tobacco products. As a run up to the World No Tobacco Day, which also coincides with India’s deadline to implement pictorial health warnings on tobacco products, AFTC has undertaken a concerted advocacy campaign in 12 states of India to advocate this issue at the state level by interacting with policy makers, opinion makers and general public. AFTC is advocating for support from these important stakeholders at each state level to support effective implementation of pictorial health warnings in India through effective enforcement and monitoring procedures and emphasizing the need for stronger, field tested health warnings in the next round due in May 2010.”

Indian Society Against Smoking (ISAS) on behalf of a coalition of 56 pan-India organizations working for tobacco control in India, the AFTC, has released an information package to state level policy makers, opinion makers and leading regional newspapers. This package comprises of cards with pertinent information regarding burden caused by tobacco in India, international obligations and global best practices and also scientific data that pictorial health warnings have proved to be in interest of public health, in the countries wherever they have been implemented.

The intent of the AFTC advocacy campaign is to support the effective implementation of the current notified warnings as well as to implement stronger warnings in the next round. The present set of notified warnings are mild, diluted (occupies 40% of the front panel) and moreover they are not field tested. India requires stronger and field tested warnings to reduce tobacco related deaths and diseases.

Large comprehensive pictorial warnings on tobacco products are more effective

Large comprehensive pictorial warnings on tobacco products are more effective

An advocacy card in Hindi language for pictorial warnings on tobacco products was released by Professor (Dr) Rama Kant, Head of Surgery Department, Chhattrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University (CSMMU) at the UP Press Club in Lucknow today. Professor (Dr) Rama Kant is also a World Health Organization (WHO) International Awardee for the year 2005 on tobacco control.

This advocacy card produced by Indian Society Against Smoking, Asha Parivar with technical help from HRIDAY, advocates that large and comprehensive pictorial warnings on tobacco products are more effective.

“In Australia, the pictorial warnings on tobacco products are 90% back and 30% front of tobacco packs, in Brazil it is 100% either of the sides, in Canada and Thailand it is 50% on both sides, in UK pictorial warnings are on 43% of front and 53% of back sides of tobacco packs” said Professor (Dr) Rama Kant.

However in India the pictorial warnings that are going to be implemented from 31 May 2009 are mild, weak and not field tested, said Professor (Dr) Rama Kant.

As per the new rules notified on May 3, 2009, pictorial warnings would be displayed only on the 40% of the principal display area of the front panel of all tobacco packs (only ONE side of tobacco pack).

“India ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the first international public health treaty of the World Health Organization (WHO) in February 2004 and is a Party to the convention. According to FCTC, the deadline for India to implement pictorial health warning was February 27, 2008. But still the tobacco products in India do not carry any pictorial health warnings. Also FCTC recommends 30 % as minimum size of display of pictorial health warnings i.e. 30% front and 30% back, which India has again not complied with” said Professor (Dr) Rama Kant.

“Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the world. According to the World Health Organization, each year 5.4 million lives are lost all over the world because of tobacco use. Out of these 9 lakh deaths occur in India alone. 2500 Indians lose their lives each day because of tobacco use. India has the highest number of oral cancer cases in the world and 90% of all oral cancers are tobacco related and 40% of all cancers in India are due to tobacco use” said Professor (Dr) Rama Kant.

SMS helpline for Free TB support service in India

SMS helpline for Free TB support service in India

A Short-Message-Service (SMS) helpline was launched in New Delhi, India to provide round-the-clock free tuberculosis (TB) support service to TB patients. This SMS helpline is being managed by ex-TB patients.

Earlier on World Health Day (7 April 2009), a unique partnership was forged in a community of India's capital to improve TB responses (read more). The residents of south Delhi and healthcare providers in this area participated in an open dialogue to identify key challenges that people faced in accessing the health services, and came up with effective solutions that can potentially improve the quality of care for all residents. This new Community Care Club in the Lado Sarai area of South Delhi (India), has been working to improve the health of people in the diverse district by bringing together consumers and care-providers in a dynamic 'partnership in health'. Led by local former TB patients and people living with HIV (PLHIV), this is an initiative to empower not only themselves, but also to empower and mobilize a broad base of the community including the private and public sectors.

The SMS helpline was launched in another follow-up meeting of Community Care Club on 26 May 2009. Breaking new ground, from the bottom up, people living with the diseases and those most affected had reached out to raise the standards of care, driving forward on securing their Rights and fulfilling their Responsibilities, as outlined in the Patients' Charter for Tuberculosis Care.

The World Care Council, an international NGO of activists living with HIV and/or TB, is beginning to roll out a series of projects in India. As TB is the greatest killer of PLHIV, and almost half a million Indians die annually from this curable disease, the World Care Council is striving to build a mechanism for empowerment for all those either with TB or most at risk, applying many lessons learned from the last 25 year of HIV/AIDS activism and other social movements.

Over the last few months, the World Care Council's Indian branch has organized patient support groups, trained a team of TB activists to get local Clubs going, and conducted Outreach for Input events to build stake-holding on the ground in two pilot projects in New Delhi and Goa, with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The first seeds for growing social mobilization have been planted, nurtured and are ready to blossom. Now, the outreach is underway to forge dynamic partnerships with key elements of civil society and to strengthen existing collaborations with the Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP), National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) and State Governments.

On 26 May 2009, a meeting was held in the LRS Institute of Tuberculosis and Respiratory Diseases, New Delhi, and on 27 May 2009, another meeting was held in Lado Serai Community Hall in South Delhi.

These series of meetings are particularly important because for the first time in the history of India's TB control efforts, the TB patients themselves are taking centre-stage in driving mobilization and advocacy for scaling up TB care to improve services and prevention for themselves, their peers and their neighbours.

The Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) of the Government of India, now includes the Patients' Charter for Tuberculosis Care (PCTC, The Charter). The Charter is also a part of the global Stop TB Strategy, and lays out the rights and responsibilities of people with TB, and how the Charter is a tool to effectively achieve the implementation of the International Standards of Tuberculosis Care (ISTC).

However, implementing the Charter on the frontlines of TB care, raising awareness about rights and responsibilities, and using it as an empowering tool for people with TB and their community in order to improve the quality of care services, is certainly a daunting task.

The SMS helpline managed by ex-TB patients is certainly a step forward in responding effectively to the challenge. The SMS helpline number is (0) 99710 43320.

- Bobby Ramakant, HDN Key Correspondent

Nip The Problem In The Bud - Nay The Leaf - in lead up to World No Tobacco Day (31 May) -

- in lead up to World No Tobacco Day (31 May) -
Nip The Problem In The Bud - Nay The Leaf

Tobacco is the only consumer product which is grown and available legally and is lethal for human beings. At the current rate, the number of smokers dying every year in the world is likely to reach (10 million) 1 crore by 2020.

In India tobacco kills 1 million (10 lakhs) people annually.

Tobacco definitely is a global health epidemic, whose rapid spread around the world presents daunting challenges to policy makers and people engaged in public health concerns. Yet one finds an unacceptable contradiction here. Tobacco control policies and tobacco promotion measures seem to be coexisting comfortably. On one hand we have governments all over the world, initiating well deserving measures to combat tobacco consumption, while on the other hand, they continue to promote cultivation, sale, trade and export of tobacco and its products.

While I was in Mumbai attending the 14th World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH), I met a noted writer who said she was unable to understand the logistics of tobacco control. She echoed the sentiments of several others that the best solution to the problem would be to stop growing tobacco and stop manufacturing its products. Why produce the poison and then go all out to prevent its usage?

India is one of the signatories to the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), thereby agreeing to implement its provisions. FCTC is the first global corporate accountability and public health treaty. As a Party to the treaty, India is obligated to take measures to bring down the consumption and production of tobacco in the country. It is the latter, which merits serious attention in order to achieve the former.

It makes sense that the strong legislative efforts of our government to curb tobacco use, sale and advertising need to be supported by proper and stricter enforcement. But far more important is to back these measures by comprehensive policies that have far reaching effects on tobacco cultivation and on manufacturing of all tobacco products like cigarettes, bidis, chewing tobacco, snuff and other localized versions. There is no safe way to use tobacco – whether inhaled, sucked, sniffed or chewed, and there are no safety levels.

The main reasons cited for this dual behaviour are the economic dependence of the tobacco growing farmers and the bidi rollers on this activity and of the government on the revenue collections. But if we delve a little deeper in the issue, then the reality will be different from these arbitrary assumptions. The task to overcome these ‘obstacles’ should not be as formidable as it appears to be.

Tobacco cultivation in India , especially the Flue Cured Virginia (FCV) tobacco used for cigarette making, has been enjoying government support for decades.

The area under tobacco cultivation is presently 368.5 thousand acres, which is less than 0.3% of the net sown area in the country. Around 3 to 5 lakh farmers are engaged in this activity. Tobacco farming is seasonal and restricted to a few states only, with Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Orissa accounting for more than 90% of the total tobacco cultivation. It is easy for government to intervene as around 35% of tobacco crop area is governed by the rules of Tobacco Board, Government of India.

Case studies/experiments carried out by tobacco research centres suggest alternative crops like soybean, groundnut, different varieties of gram, maize, paddy, mustard, sunflower, cotton, sugarcane etc. which yield almost similar returns and are far more eco and health friendly. In fact, in some states tobacco has sadly replaced cultivation of food crops like jowar, maize and ragi - which were once called the poor man’s food, and are now high even on the health conscious’ diet chart. This shift from growing tobacco to something healthier can only affect the economic status of the farmers in a positive way. Of course, the government will have to provide them incentives by way of technical know how, seeds and marketing links for the alternate crops.

Supply of tobacco products from external sources, both legal and illegal will also have to be controlled. India is a lucrative market for foreign cigarettes and cigars. The government would therefore need to ban the import of tobacco products and foreign direct investments in the tobacco sector.

Another populist argument given in favour of tobacco production is the dependence of about 4 lakh people (two thirds of whom are women) on bidi rolling as a major economic activity. But the ground reality is that bidi manufacturing is the most exploitative work, wherein most of the workers (more than 50%) do not get even the minimum wages. This industry is largely in the unorganized sector. Manufacturers easily resort to all sorts of underhand dealings to evade excise duty as well as circumvent the minimum wages act. Many children are also engaged in this activity in direct contravention of the Child Labour (Prohibition) Act.


A recent study, initiated by Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI), on the bidi workers from the districts of Murshidabad in West Bengal and Anand in Gujarat has brought out their dismal health and socio economic conditions. The study revealed that most of the respondents (more than 76%) earn a measly sum of Rs.33 per one thousand bidis that they rolled in more than 12 hours. This is much below the minimum wage of Rs.40 per day. Coupled with poor wages are the deplorable working conditions. The bidi workers are constantly exposed to the grave risk of contracting tuberculosis, asthma, lung disease and spinal problems. Women who carry their infants to work expose them to hazardous tobacco dust and fumes. Occurrence of asthma and respiratory / skin diseases is very common in children engaged in bidi manufacturing. Moreover, they have to juggle school with bidi rolling, and often discontinue after the primary level (especially the girls) to engage full time in bidi rolling to augment family income.


A whopping 95% of the respondents wanted to shift from their present occupation, to some other livelihood, with some external support.

Regarding the fiscal benefits accruing to the government from revenue collection, here again facts are very different from fiction. According to a study reported in the January 2009 issue of Tobacco Control (a publication of the British Medical Journal), India spends more on treating tobacco related diseases than it collects by way of taxes from the tobacco industry. The study used the data from the National Sample Survey conducted in 2004.

The total economic cost of tobacco use in India (direct and indirect) amounted to US $1.7 billion in 2004. This is 16% more than the total excise tax revenue of $1.46 billion collected from all tobacco products in India in the same period. It is also many times more than the expenditure on tobacco control measures.

Global tobacco production has almost doubled since the 1960s. In 2006, world tobacco production totaled nearly 7 million metric tones, with 85% of the leaf grown in low and middle resources countries. Even the Tobacco Atlas published by the American Cancer Society recognizes that tobacco agriculture creates extensive environmental and public health problems. The WHO agrees that tobacco cultivation creates extensive environmental and public health problems. Pesticide/fertilizer run offs contaminate water resources. Curing of tobacco leaf with wood fuel leads to massive deforestation. Agricultural workers, even if they do not consume tobacco, suffer from pesticide poisoning, green tobacco sickness and lung damage from particulate tobacco smoke and field dust.

The FCTC rightly calls for financial/technical assistance to tobacco growers, so that they may shift to nutritious, economically viable and environmentally sound livelihood alternatives. Unskilled bidi workers will have to be found alternate employment with the help of public – private partnership. The time is ripe to focus not only on reducing tobacco consumption but also to question state support to tobacco cultivation. Tobacco control cannot be effective unless its supply is restricted and gradually stopped altogether. India cannot afford to continue exhibiting the dual policy of control of tobacco consumption and promotion of tobacco cultivation / production of tobacco products, side by side. Tobacco kills 1 million people in India annually.

A planned and phased reduction in tobacco production is going to benefit all. People employed in retailing, processing and in industries manufacturing cigarettes / chewing products can get alternate employment. In fact, most of the tobacco multinationals have diversified into other businesses and should be encouraged to close down their ‘poison manufacturing units’ in the name of corporate social responsibility.

Let the Asian Tiger take the lead in this matter for the rest of the world to follow.

Shobha Shukla

(The author is the Editor of Citizen News Service (CNS) and also teaches Physics at India's prestigious Loreto Convent. Email: shobha@citizen-news.org, website: www.citizen-news.org)


Malaysian surgeons to learn piles management from Prof Rama Kant

Malaysian surgeons to learn piles management from Prof Rama Kant
[To read this post in Hindi language, click here]

The Department of Surgery, University of Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia has invited noted Surgeon Professor (Dr) Rama Kant, Head of Surgery Department at Chhattrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University (CSMMU) to deliver a talk on haemorrhoids (piles).

CSMMU surgeons have been doing pioneering work in management of piles or haemorrhoids by DGHAL and RAR techniques.

Professor (Dr) Rama Kant shall be delivering a guest lecture in Malaysia on “Revolution in management of haemorrhoids by DGHAL and RAR – can it write off surgery?” Established in 1965, University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) is the premier teaching hospital in nation's capital of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

“It is surprising that piles or haemorrhoids have not been high up on the public health agenda despite of the incredibly high prevalence and practical approaches to prevent or manage them. According to varying estimates 50-85% of the world’s population suffers from piles or haemorrhoids at some stage in their lives, especially the risk to develop piles alarmingly increases between 50-70 years of age” said Professor (Dr) Rama Kant, who is also a recipient of World Health Organization (WHO) Director General’s Award in 2005.

Prof Rama Kant was elected as President of Association of Surgeons of India (ASI), UP and also chairs the Lucknow College of Surgeons (LCS).

“There are known lifestyle and dietary factors that aggravate the risk to piles significantly” said Prof Kant.

Piles are swellings that develop from the tissues that line the anal canal or back passage. The tissue of the anal canal is rich in blood vessels. If these vessels become dilated and swollen, they may project into the anal canal or out of the back passage (known as a prolapse) to form visible swellings.

Piles tend to be caused by factors that cause the blood vessels to swell, including anything that increases pressure inside the abdomen such as constipation, pregnancy or being overweight. Prevalence of piles is higher in pregnant women than in non-pregnant women of the same age group.

Penniless Plight

Penniless Plight
Anjali Singh

Lucknow: When tragedy strikes children of underprivileged homes whom do they turn too? Victims of unfortunate circumstances they are forced to be deprived of the their basic right to survival.


Worse still their families have no answers to questions like where do poor families who cannot afford treatment seek financial help? Who is responsible for the welfare and protection of such sick and hurt children?


Does the state taking note of its responsibility as seriously as it should where these children are concerned?


With no answers to such questions for children like baby Bitta, a five month old victim of a brutal acid attack , the wait seems endless to get financial assistance for the long and cumbersome treatment prescribed to her by doctors of the Department of Plastic Surgery, Chhattrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University (CSMMU), Lucknow.

Having to undergo skin grafting and surgery for the next fifteen years the child’s parents are at their wits end. The cost being too high for them to afford coming from a lower income group, they have no means to manage Rs one lakh every six months for the treatment.


Ironically they have applied to relief funds set up by government for such patients including the Welfare Society Fund running within the hospital the child is being treated at and even tapped the Chief Minister’s Discretionary Fund but they have faced rejection at all levels.


Says Vijay Kumar, Bitta’s distraught father, “I have sold of every bit of land I had and have nothing more to sell off. But still I have not been able to manage the money for the next phase of treatment for my daughter. I have no idea what will happen to her now.”

“It has been a nightmare-first the tragedy then the high medical expenses we are saturated. We are a poor farmer family, we have already spent Rs one lakh we cannot afford anymore,” adds Krishna Gopal, the uncle of Baby Bitta.

Yet till date despite all recommendations, no financial assistance has come their way although the provisions exist for patients like their child.

Though Saaksham Foundation, an NGO working for the rights of children, has been trying to get funds as soon as possible for the child, it is indeed tough specially with no consideration being given to the child on humanitarian grounds.

Explains A Singh, Director Saaksham Foundation, “In special cases like Bitta’s the very fact that we have to argue her case is shameful. The child is an obvious case where entitlement to state financial aid is her right, more so on humanitarian grounds. Yet applications after applications are being rejected even by Welfare Society, CSMMU which has been set up to address cases like that of Bitta. But they are not ready to consider the case even when the treatment of the child id on at their medical university. The Chairman of the Welfare Society who is the vice-chancellor (VC) of the medical university has rejected the Child Welfare Committee’s (CWC) strong written request to take note of the child’s plight.”

But then Bitta is not alone who is suffering on account of lack of money for treatment.

Sri Ram, a daily wage labour and his disabled wife have just had a daughter. But their joy on becoming parents of 7 day old Sunita was short lived when they were told the baby had a huge perforation in the intestines and would die if not operated upon immediately.

Rues Sri Ram, “The estimate given to us for a single operation is Rs 50,000 and that does not include post operative care and follow up treatment. I am not even able to manage one square meal a day from where will I get Rs 50,000 for my daughter’s treatment?”

Both he and his wife being illiterate they are clueless on how to fill up the cumbersome forms needed to seek financial aid from state government funds. While the child has been operated upon by the hospital’s doctors after some social activists managed to collect donations and fund the operation. The rest of the amount for treatment of the child is still not arranged for.

But why are these parents up against a dead end when their BPL (Below Poverty Line) status makes them eligible to get access to all treatment free of cost?

Explains Dr Brigeetha VV, Chairperson, Child Welfare Committee Lucknow, “I have not seen a single BPL patient availing free treatment for a serious medical condition or being given immediate financial assistance. So what does one do when they are faced with a crisis? Medical treatment does not just end after the operation, the patient needs blood, medicines, post operative care and number of things to manage the malady. Yet there is no emergency funds for children that can be tapped for providing financial aid within 24 hours in case of accidents and or life saving operations if required.”

But the situation is not surprising as the condition is deplorable when it comes to the budget allocation for children. Ironically when it comes to the health sector a dismal 0.61% is what has been allocated on average between 2005-2008.

This is despite the fact that there has been an increase in the allocation of the health sector from Rs 402.1546 crores (in 2004-05) to Rs 612.0040 crores (in 2007-2008). In addition there has been a fall in allocation of health sector for children as compared to the allocation in other sectors like social sector.

While the state agrees that the allocation of a budget exclusively for children in distress and who need immediate medical help but can’t afford it is a must, no initiative has been taken by them till date.


On the other hand while child rights activists feel that creation of such a fund should be the government's responsibility but they maintain that the fund should be managed by NGOs working in the field. Whether that is that is possible is anyone's guess.


Nevertheless Dr Brigeetha stresses that though CM’s funds are applied for but in most cases the poor don’t get access to it as the procedures are cumbersome and they have no way of fulfilling it.


She says, “The cases that we pursue as well don’t get 100% relief only 50% or even lesser which does not solve their problem. Thus a need right now is to develop a emergency funds that can be created by funding NGOs who can collaborate with each other and manage a sum of a few lakhs raised to institutional or individual donations. This fund can then be used to provide financial aid to children who really need it. The aim should be to cut down paper work and try and release the money for treatment with 5-6 hours after the application from patient’s family is received.”


Agrees Chandra Kishore Rastogi, President, Hari Om Sewa Trust, an NGO that works at CSMMU helping arrange funds and medicines for the needy free of cost, “The situation is quite serious as our society has become quite insensitive. It is of utmost importance that an alternative funding source be developed for children who need emergency care or else a lot many innocent lives will be lost.”

A fact that is corroborated by SK Jaitley , Executive Member, Kalyanam Karoti, an organisation that provides the handicapped free medical aid and helps funds eye and limb operation of the underprivileged. “To expect that the government will do everything is just wishful thinking. If children facing an emergency situation have to benefit from any kind of financial aid on humanitarian grounds then it should reach them within six to seven hours of placing the request. This is not possible in the present government set up with tedious paperwork involved at every level. So an alternative system has to be devised.”

So True. But who will take the initiative for such a fund is a point to reckon.

Anjali Singh

(The author is a Special Correspondent to Citizen News Service (CNS) and also the Director of Saaksham Foundation. Email: anjali@citizen-news.org)


Size of Pictorial Warnings: Large and Comprehensive Warnings are more effective

Size of Pictorial Warnings: Large and Comprehensive Warnings are more effective
International Best Practices










Australia
Front: 30%
Back: 90%








Brazil
100% either of the sides










Canada
Front: 50%
Back: 50%









Thailand
Front: 50%
Back: 50%









UK
Front: 43%
Back: 53%

Size of Pictorial Warnings: International Best Practices

• 60% New Zealand (30% of front, 90% of back)
• 56 % Belgium (48 % of front, 63% of back, including border)
• 56 % Switzerland (48 % of front, 63% of back, including border)
• 52 % Finland (45% of front and 58% of back, including border
• 50 % Singapore (50 % of front and back)
• 50% Uruguay (50 % front and back)
• 50 % Chile (50 % front and back)
• 50 % Venezuela (100% of either front or back)
• 48 % Norway (43 % of front, 53 % of back, including border)

Indian Scenario

Pictorial Warnings previously notified by the Government
Strong and effective – field tested




























In the earlier set of rules, pictorial warnings covered 50 % of the front and 50% of the back on all tobacco products.

Pictorial Warnings coming into force from May 31, 2009
Mild and weak – not field tested






















As per the new rules notified on May 3, 2009, pictorial warnings would be displayed only on the 40% of the principal display area of the front panel of all tobacco packs.

International Obligation: India ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the first international public health treaty of the World Health Organization (WHO) in February 2004 and is a Party to the convention. According to FCTC, the deadline for India to implement pictorial health warning was February 27, 2008. But still the tobacco products in India do not carry any pictorial health warnings. Also FCTC recommends 30 % as minimum size of display of pictorial health warnings i.e. 30% front and 30% back, which India has again not complied with.
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Credits: this advocacy card is published and distributed by Indian Society Against Smoking (ISAS), Asha Parivar. We acknowledge the financial contribution received from Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco use and technical contribution received from HRIDAY on behalf of Advocacy Forum for Tobacco Control - AFTC (Delhi).

Address: C-2211, C-Block Crossing, Indira Nagar, Lucknow-226016. India. Ph-fax: 2358230
Email: ramakant@ramakant.org, website: http://tambakooKills.blogspot.com

The Burden of Tobacco

The Burden of Tobacco

(1) Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the world. According to the World Health Organization, each year 5.4 million lives are lost all over the world because of tobacco use.

(2) Out of these 9 lakh deaths occur in India alone. 2500 Indians lose their lives each day because of tobacco use.

(3) India has the highest number of oral cancer cases in the world and 90% of all oral cancers are tobacco related and 40% of all cancers in India are due to tobacco use.

(4) It is estimated that by 2010, nearly 10 lakh people will die because of smoking in India and it is predicted that by 2020 tobacco will account for 13% of all deaths in India.

(5) According to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS), 2006, 5500 Indian youth start smoking every day.

(6) Health cost of tobacco related diseases are greater than the income generated from tobacco. According to a new study the direct medical cost for treating diseases related to smoking cigarettes, bidis etc., in India is 907 million US dollars (4535 crore rupees) and for smokeless tobacco products like gutkha, zarda and khaini, this cost is 285 million US dollars (1425 crore rupees).

Credits: this advocacy card is published and distributed by Indian Society Against Smoking (ISAS), Asha Parivar. We acknowledge the financial contribution received from Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco use and technical contribution received from HRIDAY on behalf of Advocacy Forum for Tobacco Control - AFTC (Delhi).

Address: C-2211, C-Block Crossing, Indira Nagar, Lucknow-226016. India. Ph-fax: 2358230
Email: ramakant@ramakant.org, website: http://tambakooKills.blogspot.com

Strong Public Support for Pictorial Health Warnings- Evidence from India

Strong Public Support for Pictorial Health Warnings- Evidence from India

A study was conducted to determine the opinion of general public towards implementation of pictorial warnings on cigarette packs in India. This study was conducted in the households and colleges in different localities of Mumbai city. 712 people above the age of 15 years participated in the study.

Results:
• More than 90% people were aware that smoking causes serious health problems and it actually kills.
• Almost 90% were aware of health warnings on cigarette packs and 97% were of the opinion that pictorial warnings should be displayed on cigarette packs in India.
• 88% people strongly agreed that the health warning now proposed by the government should be improved to convey very serious diseases caused by tobacco, like cancer.
• Almost 85% people wanted strong warnings on cigarette packs to be displayed immediately.
• 68% people showed high concern for the delay in implementation of the law pertaining to pictorial health warnings.
• With pictorial health warnings:
- 32.4% respondents felt, non-smokers will think twice before starting smoking,
- 31.5% felt, smokers will think of reducing smoking,
- 23% felt, smokers will think of quitting smoking

Policy Recommendations

• Effective enforcement of current warnings on all tobacco packs.
• The current warnings must be field tested to assess their effectiveness amongst all strata of society to determine if they effectively communicate the actual health impact of tobacco use.
• The current warnings have to become stronger in the next round of rotation. These needs to be stronger in terms of size and content of pictograms.
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This study was conducted by Healis Sekhsaria Institute of Public Health, Mumbai, a member organization of the Advocacy Forum for Tobacco Control (AFTC)


Credits: this advocacy card is published and distributed by Indian Society Against Smoking (ISAS), Asha Parivar. We acknowledge the financial contribution received from Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco use and technical contribution received from HRIDAY on behalf of Advocacy Forum for Tobacco Control - AFTC (Delhi).

Address: C-2211, C-Block Crossing, Indira Nagar, Lucknow-226016. India. Ph-fax: 2358230
Email: ramakant@ramakant.org, website: http://tambakooKills.blogspot.com

EFFECTIVE PICTORIALWARNINGS CAN SAVE LIVES !!

EFFECTIVE PICTORIALWARNINGS CAN SAVE LIVES !!

Pictorial health warnings are most effective way of broadcasting health messages across wide spectrum of population about the adverse health effects of tobacco use. Pictorial warning labels detract from the glamour and appeal of tobacco products and help to create an environment where ‘tobacco-free’ is the norm.

Effective warning labels increase knowledge about risks associated with tobacco use more effectively than text-only warnings. In a country like India where one-third of the population is illiterate, pictorial warnings can communicate health messages effectively and prevent uptake and motivate tobacco user to quit.


Countries with strong and effective pictorial warnings are experiencing major reduction in tobacco use. Larger the pictorial warnings on tobacco packs more are the chances of people avoiding it. Strong and effective pictorial warnings are able to realistically depict the whole trauma, agony and the pain caused to the death, disease and disability related to tobacco use.


International Evidence in support of Pictorial health warnings


• Evidence from Canada and Australia shows that pictorial warnings increase awareness about the health risks of smoking amongst smokers and reduce consumption.


• In Brazil, 54% of smokers changed their opinion on the health consequences of smoking because of the pictorial warnings and 67% of smokers said the warnings made them want to quit.

• 50 % of smokers in European Union said that warnings compel them to smoke less around other people; 31 % of ex-smokers report that picture warnings motivated them to quit.

• The results in countries having pictorial warnings have suggested that picture warnings are on an average, 60 times more effective in terms of encouraging tobacco cessation and prevention.

Credits: this advocacy card is published and distributed by Indian Society Against Smoking (ISAS), Asha Parivar. We acknowledge the financial contribution received from Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco use and technical contribution received from HRIDAY on behalf of Advocacy Forum for Tobacco Control - AFTC (Delhi).

Address: C-2211, C-Block Crossing, Indira Nagar, Lucknow-226016. India. Ph-fax: 2358230
Email: ramakant@ramakant.org, website: http://tambakooKills.blogspot.com

Jonathan Mann Awardee Binayak Sen released on bail today

Jonathan Mann Awardee Binayak Sen released on bail today

Bail was granted to the paediatrician Dr Binayak Sen who was jailed in Raipur prison since more than two years now, on alleged false charges of abetting maoist activities in Chattisgarh, sedition and waging war against the state.

"This committed advocate of civil liberties has spent over three decades in the service of some of the poorest and most underserved communities and raised his voice relentlessly against atrocities in the State of Chhattisgarh. The imprisonment of Dr Binayak Sen is symbolic of gross injustice and violation of democratic values by the State and the suppression of the voices of human rights defenders" said Dr Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay Awardee (2002) and member, National Presidium, Lok Rajniti Manch (People's Politics Front - PPF).


The ‘Jonathan Mann for Global Health and Human Rights’ Awardee (2008) Dr Binayak Sen, who is a well-known paediatrician and human rights defender in Chhattisgarh, had completed two years on 14 May 2009 in a Raipur prison.

"Last year, twenty-two Nobel laureates from around the world had appealed to the Indian government to allow Dr Binayak Sen to receive the 2008 Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights in person at the end of May 2008. But Indian government denied the permission and Dr Sen's wife had received the coveted global health award on his behalf" informed the firebrand social activist Arundhati Dhuru, who is also the national convener of National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM).

Dr Binayak Sen of Raipur, Chhattisgarh, India, who has helped establish a hospital serving poor mine workers in the region, founded a health and human rights organization that supports community health workers in 20 villages, and is the general secretary of the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), has been imprisoned in Raipur for two years now without trial as a result of unproven allegations that he was a naxal courier. Not only Dr Sen denies committing any crime, but his lifetime contribution to strengthen democracy and fight for the most underserved communities defies such accusations. The public pressure was mounting in many parts of the world demanding release of Dr Binayak Sen and undoubtedly his release today on bail will give a positive ray of hope.

The PUCL-Chhattisgarh Unit, with Dr. Binayak Sen's active leadership as its General Secretary, had exposed the government sponsored so-called campaign Salwa-Judum in Chhattisgarh which legitimizes extra-constitutional violence and pits adivasis against adivasis.

In Lucknow, a candle light vigil was held in Hazratganj to mark the two years of Dr Sen's imprisonment and to up the demand for his release. Many civil society organizations including Uttar Pradesh Voluntary Health Association (UPVHA), Vatsalya, Sahayog, Humsafar, Health-Watch, Samadhan, Asha Parivar, National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), Lok Rajniti Manch (People's Politics Front - PPF) had jointly called for the release of Dr Sen.

"The activists were not only demanding release of Dr Sen who was released today but also that the draconian Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act should be repealed in the undercover of which grotesque human rights violations take place in the state and the Salwa Judum be winded up. Both the other demands are still pending" said SR Darapuri, who is the Vice President of People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) in UP.

- Bobby Ramakant

Why Dalits have slammed Mayawati’s Sarv-jan Formula?

Why Dalits have slammed Mayawati’s Sarv-jan Formula?
SR Darapuri


Kanshi Ram and Mayawati started their politics with “Tilak, Traju aur Talwar- inko maro jute char” (beat the Brahmins, Banias and Thakurs with shoes) and “Vote hamara raj tumhara nahin chalega” (we won’t allow you to rule us with our vote). Besides this, in order to attract Dalits (Scheduled Castes.) they gave the slogans like “Baba tera mission adhura, Kanshi Ram karenge pura” (Kanshi Ram will fulfill the mission left incomplete by Dr. Ambedkar) and “Political power is the key to the entire problem.” Through these slogans they aimed at attracting and agitating the dalits against the ‘Savarans’( higher castes) and they succeeded also to a good extent. This polarization of dalits was further facilitated by the political vacuum created by the division and downfall of Republican Party of India which was established by Dr. Ambedkar himself in 1956.

Since 1995 Mayawati made various experiments to broaden the base of her Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). In the beginning it was known as the party of the dalits only. Later on Muslims and Other Backward Castes were also co-opted. It fought the 1993 Assembly election jointly with Samajwadi Party (S.P.), a party of Other Backward Classes and made good gains. It resulted in the formation of first coalition government of BSP and SP in Uttar Pradesh state of India. This coalition of natural allies became a subject of discussion all over India but soon a clash of personal ambitions resulted in its fall in June, 1995. Kanshi Ram and Mayawati grabbed the post of Chief Minister by making an unethical and opportunist alliance with Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP.), a party of orthodox Hindus and the bitterest enemy of dalits. This put the dalit movement and dalit politics on the path of opportunism bereft of principles. It not only confused the direction of dalit politics but also fogged the difference between friends and foes of dalits. This alliance not only gave a lease of life to the dying BJP but also broke the natural alliance of dalits and Backward Castes for ever. This unprincipled and opportunistic alliance was justified as being essential for getting into power and party workers were mislead by this briefing.

This alliance with BJP not only confused the dalits but Muslims also moved away from BSP as they consider BJP as their bitterest enemy. During the first tenure of BSP rule in 1995 some land was distributed to empower the dalits because till then the party workers had some pressure on the party leadership. But later on in order to please the Upper Caste people dalit interests were given a go bye and getting power became the sole motive of the party leadership. After first tenure of Chief Ministership of Mayawati, this process became faster and BSP raced towards ‘Sarvjan’ throwing aside the Bahujan. In every election moneyed, musclemen and mafias were given preference being winning candidates and dalits were restricted to reserved seats only. Party mission was overtaken by money power and muscle power. Old missionary party workers and those who were close to Kanshi Ram were made to exit the party unceremoniously. As such dalits were put on the margin in the party but they continued to be with the party with the hope that one day they may also get some benefit of government but their hopes were belied.

From 1995 to 2003 Mayawati thrice became the Chief Minster of Uttar Pardesh (U.P) but she always took the help of Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP). During this period neither any dalit agenda was chalked out nor any effort was made in that direction. During 1993 this author during many discussions with Kanshi Ram suggested chalking out a dalit agenda but my suggestions were ignored. I think it was done purposely because declaration of an agenda brings upon a duty to implement it and if failed it brings upon the responsibility and accountability for the failure. It is a matter of regret and sorrow that a party seeking political power in the name of dalits has not framed any agenda till to date as a result of which the dalits have been deprived of any gain coming from a government being run in their name. The result is that the dalits of U.P. are the most backward dalits in whole of India barring those of Bihar and Orissa. During this period moneyed and musclemen of Upper Castes have been managing to get Assembly and Parliament tickets and getting elected they been enjoying the fruits of power whereas dalits with a meager representation have been deprived of all such benefits.

BSP, which is doing politics in the name of Dr. B.R.Ambedkar, in its effort to secure power has totally ignored his warning in which he had said that “dalits have two enemies. One is Brahmanism and the other is Capitalism and dalits should never compromise with them.” But Mayawati has compromised with both by co-opting Brahmans and Corporate sector. At present dalit politics has become a tool for power grabbing. It reached its height when before 2007 Assembly elections Mayawati formed Dalit Brahman Bhaichara Committees (Dalit Brahmans Brotherhood Committees) headed by a Brahman president and a dalit as secretary.

The election success of BSP during 2007 was mainly attributed to the important role played by Brahmans and they got a lion’s share in power which was much disproportionate to their population. Dalits were reduced to the level of second class players in the Party and in minister ship. This methodology of co-opting Upper Caste people was publicized as new “Social Engineering” and BSP was transformed from the Party of dalits to a Party of Sarvjan (all inclusive).

During this period slogans such as “Haathi nahin Ganesh hai, Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh hai” (it is not an elephant but a trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh- all Hindu gods) and “Brahman shankh bajaiga, Haathi dilli jaiga”( Brahman will blow the conch and elephant will march towards Delhi) were coined to placate the Upper caste persons much to the chagrin of dalits. Elephant symbolizes the symbol of BSP. The Varna system of graded inequality became fully operative in the Party and dalits were further pushed to the margin.

Even now during the present régime of Mayawati, dalits have been totally ignored and Sarvjan have occupied the front seats. All important ministerial posts have been given to Upper caste people. Mayawati’s personal corruption has percolated to all the branches of administration and U.P. has been assessed to be “ an alarmingly corrupt state”. The various welfare schemes aiming at empowering dalits and other weaker sections of society have fallen a prey to all pervading corruption thereby depriving the intended beneficiaries of their benefits. Blatant corruption came to light during recruitment to the posts of Safai Karamcharies (Sweepers). Similar complaints surfaced during other recruitments also. It is said that there might be only a few lucky persons who escaped payment of high price for government jobs. The funds intended for development works were spent on installation of statues including her own and creating royal memorials and parks.

Since 1990 UP has been deprived of any development and creation of employment opportunities. This lack of development has adversely affected the dalits as a result of which they have become the most backward dalits in whole of India. As per 2001 senses their sex ratio, literacy rates and works participation rate are much lower than their counter-parts in other states. A fall of 13% dalits from the category of cultivators to the category of landless labourers during the last decade (1991-2001) indicates their disempowerment.

If judged from the angle of protection against atrocities on dalits, there has been no decrease during Mayawati’s rule. On the contrary as a result of written and oral orders of Mayawati the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act-1989 has become inoperative. This act was intended to prevent atrocities and award stringent punishment to the perpetrators of atrocities on Dalits. The atrocity cases against dalits are taking place as before but they are not being registered by police. As a result of non-registration of cases the dalits are condemned to suffer atrocities and deprivation from monitory compensation. The intention behind not allowing the registration of cases is to keep the crime figures low thereby projecting a crimeless state. In spite of all this burking of crime, UP stands first in whole of India in terms of crime against dalits. As such Mayawati has totally failed to give even legal protection to dalits.

The action of Mayawati of ignoring the dalits and giving preference to Upper Castes has resulted in disillusionment and anguish amongst dalits. This has been displayed by them during the recent 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Most of the criminals, moneyed men and muscle men fielded by Mayawati have been defeated as the dalits did not vote for them. Mayawati now and earlier also gave tickets to the persons whom she had herself accused of threat and assault during the Guest House case of 2nd June, 1995. But dalits refused to oblige her and almost all have been defeated.

Mayawati as before had confined the dalits to 17 reserved seats only out of whom only 2 have been elected. If we look at the allotment of tickets during this election it is found that Brahmins being 7.5% of total population of the state were given 20 tickets i.e. 25% of total seats whereas the dalits with 21% population were given 17 reserved seats only. Out of the total 20 seats won by BSP, 5 are Brahmins and only 2 are dalits. On account of this hold of Brahmins in the party, the people have started calling BSP as a Brahmins Samaj Party. From the angle of representation dalits are marginalized in the party. This has been one of the major grievances of dalits against Mayawati.

With a view to attract Most Backward Classes, Mayawati sent a recommendation to the Central Government for inclusion of 16 castes in the list of Schedule Castes. Earlier Mulayam Singh had also made a similar attempt which was opposed by dalits as it would have harmed their reservation quota. It was challenged in the court and had to be dropped. This action of Mayawati irritated the dalits. Whereas Mayawati strongly recommended the case for 10% reservation for the poor among the Upper Castes, she did not show a similar interest in respect of dalits. Her declaration of granting 10% reservation to dalits in private sector has remained on paper only.

Mayawati’s way of ignoring dalits and treating them as a bonded vote bank has irritated a large section of awakened and oppressed section of dalits and has instilled in them a feeling of alienation. But as before Mayawati tried to befool them by projecting a possibility of her becoming the Prime Minister of India. But most of Dalits refused to be taken in. A big chunk of Chamar and Jatav votes, which is the core vote bank of Mayawati, moved away from her to Congress fold. The other Dalits sub-castes like Pasi, Dhobi, Khatik and Balmiki had earlier moved towards SP and BJP. Most Backward Classes also deserted Mayawati. Afraid of Mayawati’s love for BJP Muslims also walked away from BSP. This resulted in a limited success on 20 seats only as against a projected tally of 50-60 seats whereby she could stake her claim for the Prime Ministership.

The disheartening defeat of BSP during this election has clearly shown that vote base of BSP has shrunk. Not only Muslims and Most Backward Classes have deserted BSP but a big chunk of dalits have also moved away from it to Congress. Dalit society has been badly divided on sub-caste lines. Dalit movements and dalit politics have fallen a pray to opportunism, corruption and immorality. Today it is standing at cross roads. It is not only a danger signal for Mayawati but for whole of dalit society. Will Mayawati and Dalit intellectuals think over it with their cool mind? If it is not done immediately it may again result in betrayal of dalit interests. There is a fear of dalits again becoming political slaves of Congress. It should be a matter of grave concern and serious introspection by all Ambedkarites.

Going by present signs Mayawati has refused to learn any lesson from her debacle. As rightly pointed out by B.G. Verghese in ‘Deccan Herald’ dated 2009 “the lesson Mayawati requires to learn is that she has been cut to size not on account of conspiracies against Dalit-ki-beti (daughter of a dalit) but because of her own greed, corruption and authoritarianism that is fast blunting her original appeal as a Dalit leader intent on forging a wider social alliance. People do not want innumerable self-aggrandizing statues and mausoleums at the cost of good governance and welfare. She perhaps still has time to learn and mend her ways.”

The recent election results show that dalits have rejected Mayawati’s much trumpeted up “Sarvjan Formula” and she needs to do a serious introspection and learn from her mistakes otherwise it will prove to be a missed opportunity.

SR Darapuri, is a retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer (former Inspector General (IG) of Police), Vice-President of People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), UP, and also represents the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) and Lok Rajniti Manch (People's Politics Front). Email: srdarapuri@yahoo.co.in

Taking the Law in their hands

Taking the Law in their hands
Anjali Singh

Lucknow: It comes as a blessing in disguise for many estranged couples hoping to find a solution to their marital problems. Trapped in a never ending circle of appearing on dates, filing FIRs, dodging recoveries and refusing to budge from their adamant stance for a compromise, warring couples are now beginning to realize that their life is wasting away with no solutions to their problems in sight at the family courts.


Predictably the family courts too are over burdened with cases of marital discords on the rise. Worse still even those who sit to pass judgement on the disputes now have become insensitive to the plaintiffs given the status quo that both parties maintain not allowing any decisions to be made on their pleas.

The result: usually long drawn dates that are handed out time and again stretching the duration of the case for years. This not only fractures chances of a compromise between husband and wife but also ruins the opportunity of settling down again with another partner in case couples decide to part ways.

Keeping this in view an enterprising effort has now been mooted by the honorable judges of no less stature than the High Court Lucknow UP, who have come together to start a counseling centre at the family courts to address these issues.

Being touted as a long awaited respite for those facing marital discord and even for those hearing the cases, the counseling centre is now functioning as a mediation unit which will try and work out the problems between the husband and wife to reach a amicable solution.

Explains Justice YK Tripathi, Allahabad Bench of the Lucknow High Court “In my experience marital discords usually are blown out of proportion. The reason behind the problems when assessed are not that serious as it is made out to be. A bit of counseling and reasoning with the couples usually can help resolve the issue. But in the absence of such a provision they are compelled to continue to battle it out in the courts for years together. This is what we want to avoid if there is way to settle disputes the judges who will be sitting in these counseling centre everyday will help find it. If not then an amicable way of parting of ways will be worked upon. “

A heartening proposition indeed what with five judges already been inducted at the counseling centre plans are to encourage many more to get involved and help solve the cases here. Among those who will be counseling the couples are Jusctices YK Tripathi, NB Asthana, MP Singh, ON Khandelwal, OP Srivastava all who are highly respected and experienced in their field.

Informs Sudhir Saxena, Member Secretary Uttar Pradesh State Legal Services Authority, “Justice Alam , Chairman, UPSLSA has taken the initiative to ensure that justice is done at the family courts where fate of not only the husband and wife but also innocent children are at stake. In fact the entire procedure is based on the concept of setting up of Legal Aid Cum Literacy Clinics to provide free legal aid to the poor and needy and members of the weaker sections of the society. The clinics which have been set up in every district of UP are manned by students of law colleges, retd and serving Judges and advocates. At these clinics one can get instant advice and information on legal aspects and procedures, they also assist poor litigants in drafting, typing and presentation of miscellaneous applications free of cost. In addition to that the legal aid clinics will also help the litigants to make oral queries from the offices of the court with the assistance of Secretary DLSA.”

So how does the counseling centre set up at the family courts fit in?

Avers Saxena, “Since the need was felt to introduce mediation efforts at the family court which is based on disputes related to the institution of marriage and family, veterans who have a rich experience of handling such disputes were requested to be associated with the counseling centre that has been set up. The move to do this has been taken under the Legal Aid Cum Literacy Clinics, the judges here are all experienced both in legal procedures and in counseling which is a huge asset for the family court litigants.”

A fact that is seconded by Ghazala Farooqui, Counselor, Legal Cell, Family Courts Lucknow who feels this was a much needed move, ”Though we have been counseling couples here at the existing Legal Cell the impact would be much more positive with such senior judges sparing their time to hear out and solve marital disputes. The results will be very good now a focused approach will be there to ensure that problems are ironed out and amicable solution is reached between couples.”

While the effort of the newly constituted counseling centre will be to prevent a break up in the family the judges feel that the intervention is crucial seeing the breakdown of the family structure in out society.

Says Justice OP Srivastava, “Today young people are losing faith in the institution of marriage, the liberal society we are now living in eroding the very fabric of the Indian society and an effort will be made to stop it. As we all have a moral responsibility to protect the institution of marriage and stop it from going out of fashion, but we are also aware that some times differences cannot be avoided in all the cases in such situations the merit of the case will seen and a way will be worked out for the husband and wife to end their marriage with least animosity.”

And with the Principal Judge, Family Court Lucknow Shyam Lal, welcoming the counseling centre he terms it as an opportunity to settle a larger number of cases as early as possible. “Since counseling is mandatory in marital litigation the huge burden of cases was preventing the counselors from helping to settle cases quickly. But now with High Court Judges having taken the initiative to give us support I feel a lot many litigants will benefit from their intervention. But the best part is that it will cut down the number of pending cases as solutions to the problems can be reached upon without waiting for years.”

Will that be possible? We will just have to wait and see!

Anjali Singh

(The author is a Special Correspondent to Citizen News Service (CNS) and also the Director of Saaksham Foundation. Email: anjali@citizen-news.org)


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What is to be done in the next five years?

What is to be done in the next five years?
Rahul Pandey

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has been re-elected with near majority. With the country facing a host of social, economic and political problems, its plate is full. Most sectors and people are reeling under the economic recession. At the same time the prices of some of the basic essentials like food products have been high. The poor – small farmers and landless people in villages and low skilled workers and small informal (unorganized) sector entrepreneurs in urban areas – are the worst hit. Myriad environmental problems – both local and global – stare us rudely in the face. Communal divisions and related threat of terrorism have made people insecure. The government simply does not have the luxury of a honeymoon period. It must tighten its belt and begin to act.

But before we talk about what is to be done, let us briefly look at what made the people elect the Congress and what explains the rout of the BJP and the Left? This will give us insight into what people of India want.

In the past five years Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi have steered the Congress in two different directions. Instead of conflicting politically, these efforts somehow appeared to satisfy two different but major segments of our society. This was in spite of the usual corruption and other flaws that characterize the Congress culture. Of course there were regional factors too, but here we touch upon only the main country-wide initiatives.

The well-off, urban people have grown to become enamoured of Dr. Singh. His image of an honest and intelligent person has only been reinforced in these five years. The only serious allegation, that he was a weak PM and a puppet to the Congress president, was thwarted by some of his actions like his passionate pursuit of the Indo-US nuclear deal. Although the latter meant compromising India’s neutrality and commitment to peace, it did show he was a strong willed person, unwilling to budge under pressure from heavyweights in his own party. This enhanced his credibility among the people, especially the educated middle class.

Sonia Gandhi, on her part, earnestly backed and saw through the fruition of two very important Acts – Right to Information Act (RTI) and National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). To do so, on the one hand she involved several eminent social activists to help design and draft the Acts. On the other hand, she cleverly dealt with the opposition to these Acts from vested but influential interests within her own party and outside. These Acts have strong checks built in them. Hence, despite corruption and leakage, their implementation has been reasonably well received. In many districts, several local NGOs and activist groups supported them and got engaged in their monitoring at the ground. While RTI itself has significantly increased common people’s access to governmental schemes and information, NREGA together with RTI has made perceptible improvement in rural employment and wage for the poor and curtailed distress seasonal migrations in several regions. Now many agree that these Acts constitute major institutional reform and progress, and need to be given more teeth. Such schemes helped enlist the support of the masses.

The BJP, on the other hand, had barely any positive alternatives to offer. Its personal allegations against Manmohan Singh backfired and brazenly linking terrorism to a community sounded too crude and shallow. The Left, with its disastrous pursuit of industrialization in Nandigram and Singur without any rehabilitation plan for the displaced, stood utterly discredited among the people. It appeared stripped of its own core principle.

What should be done now by the UPA government? Economic recession, poverty and unemployment, environmental problems, and terrorism loom large over India’s social-political horizon. An innovative policy response will be one that attempts to address all these problems in a synergistic stroke. Trying out a way that solves one problem while worsening another is something we have done many times in the past and will not work this time too.

Many economists and planners agree that a key solution to recession is to increase government or public spending. This would directly pump money in the economy and create jobs in public works. The money that thus reaches the hands of consumers will eventually boost consumer spending. The banks must simultaneously ease up credit schemes so that people can borrow at low interest rate, which again boosts spending and investment in the economy.

The tricky policy question is: For which kind of activities should the government increase spending and the banks offer easy credit? How much and for how long? Answer to these questions will determine the success of our economic revival. It will also determine what kind of capabilities India would acquire in the process, for instance, in technologies and management systems in agriculture, industrial, infrastructure, energy and environmental fields. More crucially, it will also determine the extent to which we will solve our social problems like poverty, unemployment and wide economic disparity.

To identify the right policy direction for India it is important to recognize certain dominant global trends. First, globalization is rapidly increasing the access of people, especially those connected with the modern economy, to information from everywhere. People are becoming more aware of the critical issues of politics, economies, development, environment and human rights in different parts of the world. Second, as the forces of globalization are also unleashing repression of ordinary communities by big capital intensive projects, the opposition of people to such forces is becoming louder. At more and more places local people are getting organized and raising voices against unjust development projects that displace them from local resource base and do not offer much in return. And more and more such people’s groups are getting networked. This is leading to greater demands for a more democratic and just society. Third, the same forces of development have caused grave environmental damage, both locally in polluted cities, rivers, lakes, forests and industrial sites, and globally in form of changing climate. These problems too have mobilized scores of NGOs, policy makers and people everywhere to lobby for environment and people friendly policies. Fourth, as organizations worldwide are under increasing pressure to offer innovative products and services that are both customer and environment friendly, these dimensions are becoming important bases of competition in more and more marketplaces.

All these are irreversible trends which are strengthening and spreading widely. The policy prescriptions that directly address India’s internal social-economic-environmental problems and are, at the same time, in sync with these global trends will be the most robust ones.

To begin with, a drastically enhanced government spending is required on rural infrastructure and environment – roads, wells, water supply, electricity supply, upgraded primary and higher schools, schools for women, training centers in useful employable skills, community centers, planting trees, etc. All such works must be linked with NREGA. This will simultaneously create many productive jobs and build useful infrastructure. Given the current state of such infrastructure, these works can consume most of NREGA’s budget for years.

In order to be environment friendly and sustainable, rural infrastructures like water harvesting and electricity supply must be small and based, as far as possible, on locally available and renewable resources. Fortunately, different parts of India are enriched with at least one renewable resource like solar energy, wind, water, and several types of biomass. Agricultural practices must be based on modern but organic and low energy intensive methods as much as possible. Industries must be energy efficient and source energy first from renewable resources. All waste must be recycled.

Once set up, the facilities for water, electricity/energy, agriculture, education, waste handling, etc. will offer a lot of employment opportunities to operate and maintain them. Hence the newly established training centers must provide training in these and a host of other skills useful for local youth and women to start various entrepreneurial activities relevant for the local society.

Most crucially, for all these initiatives to be useful to local economy, be environment-friendly, and reach all communities and people, they must be governed and monitored locally in the most democratic manner. This can be done only by local bodies that constitute representation from all communities, are democratically elected, and linked with other decentralized institutions of governance. This, in turn, requires that the local institutions of governance are strengthened and made fully decentralized and democratized. This will ensure that local people are the ones who have maximum say in the decisions of fund allocation, selection and monitoring of works, and choice of infrastructures, skills and economic activities. Any large industrial or infrastructure project that impacts local resource base and livelihoods, along with necessary rehabilitation scheme, too must be approved by the local governing bodies.

What about the urban areas? Their design too must change to eco-friendly and people friendly one in which people do not commute much to work, roads are neither congested not polluted, there is high enough capacity of public transport systems, there are many parks and community places for children and adults to enjoy, trees are abundant, houses and buildings are fitted with renewable systems of electricity and water supply, most of the waste is collected and recycled, and there are no slums as all low income people live in proper houses with proper sanitation facilities provided by the government. A lot of urban poor can be engaged and employed in the process of such transformation of urban landscape.

And what about the modern industries? They must be forced through regulation to acquire new technological innovation and management capabilities to become highly energy efficient, environment friendly, and customer friendly. Besides benefiting the society and the environment around them, such capabilities will enable industries to become globally competitive. This is a huge challenge for the Indian industry and will require change in mindset and a lot of work. The surplus manpower in current times of recession can be usefully trained and engaged to build the new systems and capabilities required in this process.

The government must enhance spending and the banks must offer easy credit to directly support the activities that lie within the ambit of strategies proposed above. This will enable the Indian society to transit to a new development path that entails people-driven decentralized governance systems, sustainable and environment friendly infrastructure, agriculture and industrial systems in rural areas, eco-friendly cities, and modern industries with energy efficient and environmental innovation capabilities. The support must be offered until such a transition is achieved. As for terrorism, it will be rendered a secondary concern if we set out seriously on the task of building a prosperous, sustainable and just society.

Rahul Pandey

(The author is a former faculty member of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay and Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Lucknow. He is currently a founder member of a start up venture that develops mathematical models for planning and policy analysis. He can be contacted at rahulanjula@gmail.com)