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Bill To ‘Secure’ Ukrainian As Official State Language Gets Affirmation

The Ukrainian language also would be mandatory in all official documents, court records, elections and referendums, international treaties, and labor agreements,.

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Activists rally outside parliament in Kyiv in support of the language law on April 25. RFERL

Ukraine’s parliament has approved legislation that its authors say will “secure” the use of Ukrainian as the official “state language.”

Ukraine’s outgoing President Petro Poroshenko has said that he will sign the bill into law before he leaves office in early June.

But Ukraine’s president-elect, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has criticized the bill as a set of “prohibitions and punishments” that will complicate bureaucratic procedures and “increase the number of officials instead of reducing them.”

In an April 25 statement on his Facebook page, Zelenskiy said his view “is that the state should promote the development of the Ukrainian language by creating incentives and positive examples.”

“After my appointment to the post of president, a thorough analysis of this law will be made to ensure that it meets all the constitutional rights and interests of all Ukrainian citizens,” Zelenskiy said, adding that he will respond “in accordance with the constitutional powers of the president of Ukraine and in the interest of citizens.”

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The bill says the language rules would not apply to private conversations or religious rituals. Pixabay

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters in Moscow that the bill contradicts the Ukrainian Constitution and promotes the “Ukrainization” of the country.

“It is actually a law on forced Ukrainization, basically a total one. Its texts envision significant restrictions, and in some case directly ban the use of Russian and the languages of ethnic minorities in different spheres of social life,” Zakharova said.

The bill says “the only official state language in Ukraine is the Ukrainian language.”

It says “attempts” to introduce other languages as the state language would be considered as “activities with the goal to forcibly change the constitutional order.”

The bill also introduces a legal concept known as the “public humiliation of the Ukrainian language,” which it defines as “illegal activity equated to desecration of Ukraine’s state symbols” under the country’s criminal code.

It allows language quotas for state and private television broadcasts and says at least half of the text in printed media must be in Ukrainian.

The legislation also calls for the introduction of “language inspectors who will be present at all gatherings and sessions of any state bodies.”

They would be empowered to demand documents from political parties and public organizations and to impose punitive fines of up to $450 if they determine the documents are “not in Ukrainian.”

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In an April 25 statement on his Facebook page, Zelenskiy said his view “is that the state should promote the development of the Ukrainian language by creating incentives and positive examples.” VOA

The bill also calls for the establishment of a state-run “center for the Ukrainian language” to issue certificates that confirm the language fluency of Ukrainian citizens.

Public posts that require Ukrainian fluency under the bill include the presidency, the speaker of parliament and all parliamentary deputies, government ministers, the head of the state security service, the prosecutor-general, the chief of the Ukrainian National Bank, and local council members.

The Ukrainian language also would be mandatory in all official documents, court records, elections and referendums, international treaties, and labor agreements,.

The bill says the language rules would not apply to private conversations or religious rituals.

The language issue is controversial among Russian speakers in Ukraine.

Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine claim Kyiv is deliberately curtailing the use of the Russian language. (RFERL)

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Indian Parliament Imposes Ban on E-Cigarettes

Moving the Bill, Harsh Vardhan clarified that e-cigarettes are not tobacco products

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E-cigarettes are electronic devices which can enable the delivery of all intoxicating substances. Predominantly, they are used for nicotine delivery, which is one of the most addictive elements known. Pixabay

Paving the way for a complete ban on E-Cigarettes, the Rajya Sabha on Monday passed the Prohibition of E-Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Bill, 2019, by voice vote.

The Bill has already been passed by the Lok Sabha for replacing the ordinance promulgated last September.

Replying to members on the Bill, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan urged them to pass the legislation unanimously in the larger interest of the children.

“There is evidence now that e-cigarettes are very harmful. They can become a bigger menace than tobacco one day. So, the intention of the government has been to nip the problem in the bud itself,” the minister said.

While most members in the House supported the ban on e-cigarettes, some of the MPs wanted to know why conventional cigarettes aren’t banned as they are equally or even more harmful.

Many opposition members also expressed reservation over bringing the ordinance and introducing the Bill without sending the same to a Parliamentary Standing Committee.

On why all tobacco products are not being banned, Harsh Vardhan said that he would be the happiest person if that happens.

“You see, in a country as vast as India, once a particular product has a very big consumer base and social acceptance, it is in fact very, very difficult to ban it,” the minister said.

On the reasons for bringing the ordinance, the minister said that apart from other things, some of the big tobacco companies changed their names and started making plans to enter India.

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Paving the way for a complete ban on E-Cigarettes, the Rajya Sabha on Monday passed the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Bill, 2019, by voice vote. Wikimedia Commons

“They had made full preparations. There was an announced entry of a company called Juul, one of the leading global manufacturers of e-cigarettes, in December 2019. It was probably one of the most imminent concerns that worried all of us,” he said.

Participating in the discussions, Trinamool Congress leader Santanu Sen argued for banning all tobacco products as all of them were harmful to human health.

“Of course, by this Bill we are preventing a person from committing suicide by jumping from the fifth floor, but we are also keeping the more affordable and accessible 10th floor wide open to jump from,” Sen said to highlight the serious health concerns posed by conventional cigarettes.

The Rajya Sabha MP, also national president of Indian Medical Association, noted that a normal cigarette constitutes 700 chemicals out of which 250 are very much harmful. Further, out of this 250 chemicals, 60 cause cancer while all of them are carcinogenic.

“Smoking increases coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times. It increases stroke by 2 to 4 times. It increases lung cancer by 25 times and it increases the probability of COPDA (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) by 13 times,” the Trinamool leader said.

Congress MP B.K. Hariprasad said that he did not support e-cigarettes but opposed the way the Bill had been brought. He also suspected the intention of the government behind bringing the ordinance and subsequently the Bill hurriedly.

“People are smelling a rat in the way this Bill has been brought hastily,” Hariprasad said while making a case for banning all tobacco products as all of them were equally harmful.

He said the government should not succumb to tobacco lobbyists.

Senior CPI leader Binoy Viswam also raised questions around the manner in which the bill had been introduced as no survey or study was carried out before bringing the legislation.

Replying to members on the Bill, Harsh Vardhan said that all his life he had fought against tobacco lobbyists and therefore members should not have any suspicion on his intention.

Congress MP Rajeev Gowda said that the ban has to be a last resort rather than the first resort which is what has been the practice in this particular context.

“A ban or prohibition, as we have seen everywhere, results in underground activities. It results in criminalisation of the society. It results in the creation of a mafia that deals with the underground activity,” Gowda said while participating in the discussions on the bill.

E-cigarettes are electronic devices which can enable the delivery of all intoxicating substances. Predominantly, they are used for nicotine delivery, which is one of the most addictive elements known. This also includes all forms of electronic nicotine as well as non-nicotine delivery devices such as e-hookahs and heat-not-burn products.

Moving the Bill, Harsh Vardhan clarified that e-cigarettes are not tobacco products.

“Any comparison about their adverse health impacts with tobacco is misplaced. There is also no conclusive evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes. On the other hand, there is definitely an emerging evidence all over the world that e-cigarettes have significantly harmful effects on health,” the minister said.

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The Rajya Sabha MP, also national president of Indian Medical Association, noted that Apart From E-Cigarettes, a normal cigarette constitutes 700 chemicals out of which 250 are very much harmful. Further, out of this 250 chemicals, 60 cause cancer while all of them are carcinogenic. Pixabay

Highlighting the harmful effects of nicotine delivered by e-cigarettes, the minister said that nicotine sulfate was once approved to be used as a pesticide by the agriculture department.

“Recently, even that approval has been withdrawn considering its toxicity. Therefore, it is a chemical that is not even fit to be used as a pesticide. That is the latest about nicotine.

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“It is the most addictive substance currently known in the world and is even more addictive than heroin. There is currently no known treatment for nicotine-addiction anywhere in the world,” Harsh Vardhan said. (IANS)