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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.

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Narendra Modi Accuses Congress of Aiding Those Who Want to Weaken Army

Again, the Prime Minister said "some people" felt ashamed of shouting "Bharat Mata ki Jai"

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According to LocalCircles, each person who voted in the survey is registered with the portal with their detailed information and in many cases they shared their residential address.
Congress helping those who want to weaken Army: Modi, wikimedia commons

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday accused the Congress of aiding those who he said want to weaken the Indian Army and raising questions over the government and even the Supreme Court over Rafale fighter jets.

“Today, there are two camps in the country. One is the government that is trying to strengthen our Army. The other wants to weaken our Army at any cost,” Modi said, flagging off the 900th coach of Modern Rail Factory and a Humsafar Rake in Rae Bareli, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s Lok Sabha constituency.

“The country has been witnessing that the Congress stands by those powers who don’t want our armed forces to be strengthened,” he added, in an obvious reference to Sonia Gandhi’s son and Congress President Rahul Gandhi who has been accusing corruption in the Rafale jet deal with France.

The Prime Minister said the country was watching “such people” who he added were “getting support of countries pitted against India”.

“What is the reason that people in Pakistan clap when some of our leaders speak?”

Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi (Wikimedia Commons)

The Prime Minister pointedly accused the Congress of raising questions over the dignity of the Defence Ministry, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Air Force, France and the Supreme Court over the purchase of Rafale jet aircraft.

“Some people only accept lies and speak lies. For them the country’s Defence Ministry, Defence Minster and Air Force officers are liars. The French government is also a liar. Now, the country’s Supreme Court is also a liar for them.

“But truth does not need ‘shringaar’ and lies will always die. The country will never forgive the Congress over its attitude towards the Army.”

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Again, the Prime Minister said “some people” felt ashamed of shouting “Bharat Mata ki Jai”.

“What kind of people are they who do not care about the country? I know that they want to abuse Modi. They want to frame Modi for corruption. But I want to know why they have put the country’s pride at stake for this? Why is national security being put on stake?” (IANS)