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- Vowing to combat rising levels of obesity—Kerala has the second highest levels of obesity in the country—the state government is imposing a 14.5 percent “fat tax” on fast goods sold by branded restaurants such as McDonalds and Pizza Hut
- Strongly supporting the Kerala initiative, the doctor says, “We used to see diabetes 20 years back, diabetes in 50 or 40 years of age. Now we are seeing diabetes at 15 years of age, 18 years of age”
- Global brands such as Pizza Hut, KFC and McDonald’s have been ramping up their presence as the Indian fast food market grows exponentially while others such as Johnny Rockets, Burger King, Wendy’s and Barcelos have begun making forays
Customers in India’s southern state of Kerala will have to dig deeper into their pockets each time they want to order a juicy burger, a cheese-laced pizza or other fast food such as doughnuts and tacos.
Vowing to combat rising levels of obesity—Kerala has the second highest levels of obesity in the country—the state government is imposing a 14.5 percent “fat tax” on fast goods sold by branded restaurants such as McDonalds and Pizza Hut.
India’s first ‘fat tax’
Thomas Isaac, Kerala’s finance minister, says he took the cue from a handful of countries that have experimented with similar taxes.
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India’s first such tax in the scenic, coastal state will only affect a small section of the country’s increasingly affluent middle class, whose appetite for Western-style fast food has grown over the last decade-and-a-half. The measure has attracted national attention as India confronts growing levels of obesity.
Critics question if it will actually deter people from getting their fix of junk food, and skeptics suspect it is probably meant to garner more revenue. Doctors and nutritionists, however, say it is a long overdue first step in that the country urgently needs to address its expanding waistlines.
With half of Indians under 25, worries center on young people in particular.
Anoop Misra, who heads the Center for Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol at Fortis Hospital in New Delhi, has watched with rising alarm as more and more people in their 20’s and 30’s walk into his clinic.
Strongly supporting the Kerala initiative, the doctor says, “We used to see diabetes 20 years back, diabetes in 50 or 40 years of age. Now we are seeing diabetes at 15 years of age, 18 years of age.” Misra says he hopes the rest of the country will take the cue from the state’s fat tax.
Global brands such as Pizza Hut, KFC and McDonald’s have been ramping up their presence as the Indian fast food market grows exponentially while others such as Johnny Rockets, Burger King, Wendy’s and Barcelos have begun making forays. Fast food chains have not commented on the tax so far.
Money making initiative
The Kerala government has rejected suggestions that the tax aims to shore up its revenue, saying collections from such a tax will be small. Fast food outlets have a relatively small presence in the southern state compared to the north and the west.
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Minister Isaac, who proposed the tax, says he simply sees it as a signal to move back to traditional healthy eating, a practice he says is “going out of fashion.”
While acknowledging the need to target unhealthy food, many in Kerala point to local, deep-fried, highly popular local snacks and foods that are often sold at wayside stalls and restaurants. The owner of a café in Kerala’s Kochi city, Isaac Alexander, says the format does not seem fair as it excludes such food.
“One food that is eaten widely in Kerala is the “paratha.” It is high in fat, high in refined flour; it is cheap,” he said. “It can’t be taxed because it is highly unorganized,” he said.
Raising awareness, not taxing
Doctors and nutritionists agree that the tax needs to target a range of Indian snacks rich in trans fats that are sold throughout the country often on wayside stalls, as well as sugary drinks.
“Is it enough? I don’t think so. We need to go much beyond the burgers and the doughnuts and the French fries,” says Sheela Krishnaswamy, a nutritionist who heads the Indian Dietetic Association in Bangalore. “It needs to be done more scientifically. It needs to be done at what percentage of fat in a food can the fat tax begin.”
A customer in New Delhi who is enjoying burgers with his family does not agree. Vijay Deoli says governments should focus on more urgent priorities like pollution.
“First you have to clear up the air, the water; many things are there,” he said. “This is a small thing.”
Others say the government should focus more on raising awareness about fast food instead of using taxes to influence people’s choices.
“If you go by even developed countries, nowadays teachers or classrooms — they are training people, what should be eaten, and what should not be eaten,” says IT engineer Gaurav Singh.
Denmark, for example, scrapped a fat tax when it found that customers were picking up their quota of high fat goods from other countries.
Health experts agree that raising awareness is critical; but, Dr. Misra feels that education alone is not doing the trick.
“As I see every day, people, they are well aware of what is good and what is bad, they will [still] most of the time veer towards bad eating,” he said.
He compares the fat tax to a seatbelt law imposed some years back to force people to use seatbelts. “Everybody has a seatbelt. Previously nobody was wearing that, because there is a fine. So a certain amount of regulation has to be brought in to change the habits of the people.”
The UK government on Thursday announced that it will move India from the red to the amber list on Sunday, in the country's latest update to the 'Red-Amber-Green' traffic light ratings for arrivals into England amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
This means the visit visas for the UK from India are open, in addition to other long-term visas that have remained open. But travellers from India arriving in England can complete a 10-day quarantine at home or in the place they are staying (not mandatorily quarantine in a managed hotel).
The UK government also announced that arrivals from France to England will no longer need to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated. The step aligns France with the rest of the amber list now that the proportion of beta variant cases has fallen, where those who are fully vaccinated with a vaccine authorised and administered in the UK, the US or Europe do not need to quarantine when arriving in England.
This move also simplifies the system to three categories, as well as the green watch list to give travellers notice where green status is at risk.
To continue cautiously reopening international travel, Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway will be added to the government's green list, having demonstrated they posed a low risk to UK public health.
Besides India, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE will also be moved from the red to the amber list, as the situation in these countries has improved.
The data for all countries will be kept under review and the government will not hesitate to take action where a country's epidemiological picture changes, a statement by the UK government said.
Following an assessment of the latest data, Georgia, La Reunion, Mayotte and Mexico will be added to the red list as they present a high public health risk to the UK from known variants of concern, known high-risk variants under investigation or as a result of very high in-country or territory prevalence of Covid-19.
Arrivals from Spain and all its islands are advised to use a PCR test as their pre-departure test wherever possible, as a precaution against the increased prevalence of the virus and variants in the country.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "We are committed to opening up international travel safely, taking advantage of the gains we've made through our successful vaccination programme, helping connect families, friends and businesses around the world.
"While we must continue to be cautious, today's changes reopen a range of different holiday destinations across the globe, which is good news for both the sector and travelling public."
Since February, anyone who arrives in the UK from a red list country has been required by law to book a stay in a managed quarantine facility for 10 days.
In order to ensure taxpayers are not subsidising the costs of staying in these facilities, which have gone up, the cost will increase from August 12. Alternative payment arrangements remain available to those who genuinely cannot afford to pay and rates remain the same for children up to 12.(IANS/HP)
A Hindu temple in Pakistan's Punjab province was reportedly vandalized by hundreds of people after a nine-year-old Hindu boy, who allegedly urinated at a local seminary, received bail, a media report said on Thursday.
According to the Dawn news report, the incident took place on Wednesday in Bhong town, about 60 km from Rahim Yar Khan city.
Besides the vandalization, the mob also blocked the Sukkur-Multan Motorway (M-5), the report added.
Citing sources, Dawn news said that a case was registered against the minor on July 24 based on a complaint filed by a cleric, Hafiz Muhammad Ibrahim, of the Darul Uloom Arabia Taleemul Quran.
The sources said that "some Hindu elders did tender an apology to the seminary administration saying the accused was a minor and mentally challenged".
But, when a lower court granted him bail a few days ago, some people incited the public in the town on Wednesday and got all shops there closed in protest, the report quoted the sources as further saying.
A video clip showing people wielding clubs and rods storming the temple and smashing its glass doors, windows, lights, and damaging the ceiling fans went viral on social media.
In response, one Twitter user said: "Ganesh Temple, village Bhong in Rahim Yar Khan, Punjab has been ravaged. Another day, another attack on Hindus in Pakistan."
Another said: "Yesterday, the mob ran amok at Temple over minor boy issue who allegedly urinated, the boy said to be mentally handicapped. Hindu community made an apology for the boy — a case registered against the nine-year-old boy. Those vandalized temples, no FIR registered against them."
District police spokesman Ahmed Nawaz Cheema said Rangers had been deployed in the troubled area and the situation was under control.
A small town close to the River Indus and Sindh-Punjab border, Bhong houses a number of gold traders who originally hail from Ghotki and Dehrki (Sindh), according to the Dawn news report.
A ruling PTI member representing the minority said he had been in touch with the local Hindu community and influential Rais family of Bhong since the issue surfaced.
OṀ KALMASHARAHITABHŨMYAI NAMAH:
OṀ (AUM) -KAL-MA-SHA-RA-HI-TA-BHOO-MYAI— NA-MA-HA
ॐ कल्मषरहितभूम्यै नमः
(Kalmasham: Tainted, blemish, dirty, sinful, wicked, foul, dosha, opprobrium, stigma; Rahita: Absent, devoid of)
Kalmasham is the opposite of purity; it means impure, contaminated and defective. The word is used in several senses such as: defective, fault, sin, dosham, tainted, vice, crime, disrespect, abuse, evil and contamination. However, it is also used in a technical sense in certain fields of knowledge. In Vedic literature we see words like pavitram, and pavitrata in the opposite sense of kalmasham. We, as Hindus, see everything as pure and equitable with God in an implied meaning that every atom at the microscopic level is part of the Supreme Power (Bhagavān). Having this knowledge and understanding, Hindus see the presence of God in living as well as non-living objects and have a pavitra meaning- kalmasharahita bandham.
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In Vedas and Purāṇās, Lord Shri Ramachandra Murty is portrayed without any defects and His marriage with Sīta was described as kalmasharahitam. He was glorified as the one who strictly observed the 'ekapatnī vratam' meaning-'one wife as a life partner'. Even when Sīta was abducted by the demon- Rāvaṇa and he kept her in his palace for a year, Rama did not look at another woman. The same credit goes to His consort and wife Sīta, who came out of Agni (pyre of fire) as a shining diamond proving her chastity and kalmasharahitam to the world. Our sacred literature is full of these incidents. Our dharmaśhāstrās explain that what is kalmasham is that which brings defection to one's purity. They advise purity in our thought, speech and actions.
God Ram and Goddess SitaGetty Pictures
There are many relationships we have as an individual. Some are pure and kalmasharahitam, as opposed to other relationships, like extramarital affairs. The relationship between husband and wife; brother and sister; father and daughter; parents and children; between siblings; teacher and student; among friends; and last but not least, between a devotee and his desired, beloved and personal god are considered kalmasharahitam.
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As a country, we have never waged war against another country with the intention of occupancy and robbing their wealth, or to convert them to our religion. We do not have that kalmasham on our hands or in our hearts.
Our land is 'Kalmasharahita Bhūmi'.