Thursday June 20, 2019
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Logic of convenience: The breakdown of cancer, cigarettes & India’s $9.9 bn industry

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By Ishan Kukreti

The bi-colored sticks of tobacco have given company to many a lonely, ecstatic, pensive and tense. People love to express themselves through a cigarette just as the North American tribes of the Old World believed tobacco smoke would take their prayers to the Creator.

Under such circumstances it’s not a surprise that there are 275 million smokers in India out of which almost a million bite the dust every year. The tobacco industry in India is worth a jaw dropping $9.9 billion. Though if the Supreme Court is to be believed then the nation spends around $2.1 billion in treatment of  tobacco related diseases and loss of productivity due to it.

New World and the Gift of Gods

In the native American tribes of North America tobacco was used as an entheogen in ritual and shamanic ceremonies. It was also used as a medicinal plant with a wide range healing properties. For these reasons it was considered a gift from the gods. With the discovery of the New World, tobacco was introduced in Europe and subsequently in India by the Portuguese. It was initially used as a trading commodity.

From the Creator to the coffin

The world woke up to the threat of tobacco as a sweet poison, slowly sucking the life out of the user after the First Report of the Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health said that smoking increases mortality in 1964.

According to the estimates of WHO, around 1 billion people will die due to tobacco related diseases in the 21st century. 80% of these deaths will occur in the developing world.

India’s tryst with Tobacco

India benefits a lot from tobacco production and it is the second largest producer of the cash crop after China. Ironically, it has a lot to lose too as 1.5 million people will die annually due to tobacco consumption by 2020, also the second highest after China.

India has implemented various laws to curb tobacco consumption. From 2 October 2008 under the Prohibition of Smoking in Public Places Rules, smoking in public places was banned. Cigarettes cannot be advertised according to the guidelines of the Cable Television Network (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2000.

Of cigarettes and cancer

Given the above facts, BJP`s Chief of Parliamentary Committee, Dilip Kumar Gandhi’s comment that no survey in India links smoking to cancer, seems a bit absurd, to say the least. The committee was formed to look into the non-issue of displaying health warnings on 85% of the surface area of cigarette packs.

In this regard it will be insightful to say that the tobacco companies have never been shy of protecting their business interests, at any cost. In Australia, Philip Morris sued the government for adopting a similar measure in 2011. Although the company lost the case, in its aftermath, Ukraine sued Australia for hurting its export. The absurdity of the situation there was no different for Dilip Kumar Gandhi’s comment as Ukraine’s tobacco export to Australia amounted to total big fat zero. There seems to be a pattern of absurdity here, or maybe just coincidental stupidity.

Narendra Modi government through its policies has made no bones about its industrial and corporate bent of mind. But is the government in this case, viewing matters of life and death through a distorted prism of economics and stretching the limits a bit too far? Or is it just an accidental show of euphemistic corrupt aspirations by a government promising good governance and progress?

Cigarette packs will tell the country soon enough.

Next Story

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Now Keen to Develop Young Leaders

The first camp in this regard will be held in Jhansi

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RSS, Leaders, BJP
The RSS will be holding camps in Uttar Pradesh to discuss ways to identify and groom young leaders. Pixabay

With most senior leaders in the BJP having retired from active politics, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) is now looking towards building a new leadership. Later this month, the RSS will be holding camps in Uttar Pradesh to discuss ways to identify and groom young leaders.

According to a senior RSS functionary in Lucknow, the first camp in this regard will be held in Jhansi, possibly on June 29 and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat will be attending it. Another camp is scheduled to be held in Lucknow.

“After Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, there seems to be a dearth of second rung leadership in the bhBJP. There is a need to develop leadership that will carry forward the work initiated by these two leaders.

“Rajnath Singh is a senior leader, but his age is 67. He would have crossed 70 by the time the next general elections are held in 2024. We have to identify and inculcate leadership qualities in the younger lot,” the functionary said.

RSS, Leaders, BJP
The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) is now looking towards building a new leadership. Pixabay

He further said that identifying young talent that could be groomed for greater responsibilities was a continuous process in the organisation and it never stopped.

“It is not a sudden decision but the RSS leadership always has a vision for the future and thinks ahead. We keep finding young people with leadership skills,” the functionary added.

Earlier this month, the RSS chief had underlined the need for checking misuse of power at a four-day camp that he addressed in Kanpur.

“Those getting elected in a democratic set-up have immense power, but this does not mean that it should be misused. If the government falters at any point of time, the Sangh will give it advice and suggestions with a positive point of view,” he had said.

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The RSS chief had also discussed the topics of nationalism, social equality and service in his interaction with over 600 volunteers. He also focused on qualitative development of the Sangh volunteers and apprised them of his views on dedication towards society.

The RSS leadership is also expected to come to Lucknow for a separate camp at the end of this month. In Lucknow, the RSS leaders will pay homage to senior journalist Rajnath Singh Surya, who passed away earlier this month. Surya was also a senior RSS functionary.

Officially, however, the RSS office bearers said that they had yet to receive any programme of Bhagwat and said that such camps were a ‘routine affair’. (IANS)