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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dilemma: BJP needs a ‘ Swacch Party’ campaign first to reshape India

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By Harshmeet Singh

The beedi baron, BJP MP Shyam Charan Gupta’s recent remarks where he dismissed any connection between smoking and health problems has left the saffron party red faced.  Gupta was quoted saying “I can produce a lot of people in front of you who are chain smokers of beedi and till date they have had no disease, no cancer… You get diabetes due to eating sugar, rice, potatoes. Why don’t you write warnings for all these things as well,” Notably, Shyam Charan Gupta is the founder and chairman of Shyam Group of Companies, whose flagship unit is Shyam Beedi.

Seizing the opportunity to corner the government on this matter, the opposition parties highlighted a ‘conflict of interest’ arising from Gupta’s membership in the committee framing laws on tobacco marketing and his tobacco trade. What the opposition parties pointed out was no rocket science. Gupta’s presence in the committee is akin to a criminal being a part of his own jury. The BJP MP from Allahabad, Gupta went on to press his views and asserted that beedis have ‘nil’ adverse effects on the health and there must be separate laws from chewed and smoked tobacco since smoking doesn’t cause any harm. Acting in a damage control mode, Modi suggested the health ministry to enhance the size of pictorial warnings on tobacco products from existing 40% to 65% of the size of the packing.

Unfortunately for the BJP, Shyam Charan Gupta isn’t the only ‘odd man out’ in a group of 281 Lok Sabha MPs and 47 Rajya Sabha MPs. Ever since the BJP stormed to power last year, its MPs have been making news constantly, albeit for the wrong reasons. The ambitious initiatives such as ‘Make in India’ and Clean India campaign lose their sheen when compared with some of the indigenous campaigns run by some BJP MPs including Ghar Wapasi, Love Jihad, Racist attacks on Sonia Gandhi and many others. For the BJP, the party which successfully captured the country’s imagination by fighting the General elections on the plank of clean politics and good governance, these maverick MPs working on self hatched lines pose a bigger threat than the opposition parties.

While campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections, the then PM candidate Narendra Modi openly appealed to the people to vote directly for him and not their local candidates. He promised to consider the entire country his own constituency if he became the PM. Now, more than 10 months after taking oath, the BJP is realizing that it would need much more than Narendra Modi alone to run the country efficiently. The BJP is slowing turning into a video game where the player has to step on the lights on the ground as and when they turn red. With so many lights turning red every second, the PM would find himself much stretched to control the game and cover the lights.

The Vyapam scam

An acronym for ‘Vyavsayik Pareeksha Mandal’ or the ‘Professional Examination Board’, the Vyapam scam diluted the image of BJP’s blue eyed boy, Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Though his name wasn’t directly mentioned in relation to the scam by the SIT, a number of other BJP leaders have been under the limelight for their alleged misuse of power in the scam. Some of the most well known faces associated with this scam include Madhya Pradesh’s ex education minister, Laxmikant Sharma, Governor Ram Naresh Yadav, Ganga rejuvenation minister Uma Bharti. With the Supreme Court directing the SIT to complete its investigations by 15th July, the BJP would be anxiously waiting to face the fate of its leaders.

Sakshi Maharaj

Meet Sakshi Maharaj, the man who wants Hindu women to have at least four kids. He kicked off another storm by saying that ‘madarsas in the country are teaching terrorism’. Whenever asked about his statements, BJP’s response remains ‘It’s his personal views, not the party’s’. But what the party is forgetting is that it was their leaders that asked the people to vote for Modi and not their local candidate. And since the public obliged them, isn’t it the party’s responsibility to be answerable for their MPs’ actions? The BJP’s reaction to all his actions was a solitary ‘show cause notice’ which ended the matter then and there!

Giriraj Singh 

Giriraj Singh knows how to be in the news. He wants to send Modi’s critics to Pakistan. He calls Nitish Kumar a ‘dehati aurat’. And when people thought he had exhausted his repertoire of insane comments, he tweeted this about the deadly school attack in Peshawar – “Whatever is happening in Pakistan is called friendly fight.”  The most recent of Singh’s obnoxious comments was about Sonia Gandhi and Congress Party’s love for her fair skin. While he painted the country with a brush of racism, his party said that the matter ended as soon as he offered to apologize to Sonia Gandhi!

Sadly for India and the BJP, this list is not exhaustive. For the BJP, which is hoping to ride on ‘Brand Modi’ for the next 4 years or so, the realization of truth must happen soon or the country would be headed far away from Mr. Modi’s dreams. A ‘swachh BJP’ initiative is perhaps the need of the hour for the BJP!

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WHO Vows For Broader Action Against Tobacco

To prevent further interference by tobacco industry in public health policies, the strategy requires parties to the treaty to protect national public health policies "from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry."

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WHO
WHO vows tighter, broader action against tobacco, industry interference.

The World Health Organization (WHO) unveiled a global strategy on Saturday to scale up the tobacco control agenda over the next few years and to prevent further interference by tobacco industry in public health policies.

The strategy, titled the Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), aims to strengthen implementation of the WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC), with a roadmap to guide the work of the convention parties, the secretariat and other stakeholders with regards to tobacco control from 2019 to 2025, Xinhua reported.

“The adoption of this strategy marks a key milestone in strengthening the FCTC,” said Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, head of the WHO FCTC Secretariat. “This strategy provides a very clear path forward, with priorities and objectives to reinforce government policies and accelerate global action for more effective implementation of the tobacco control treaty.”

The strategy was concluded during the eighth session (COP8) of the FCTC, which brought together over 1,200 participants, including delegations from 148 parties to the global tobacco control treaty and representatives of UN agencies, other intergovernmental organisations and civil society.

They also agreed to maximize transparency to protect FCTC related sessions and proceedings from the intrusion of tobacco industry representatives and interests.

WHO
Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus gives a news conference at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, VOA

“More than ever, we need to stay the course and strengthen our commitment to ensure that FCTC efforts to protect and promote public health and sustainable development are not hijacked by the tobacco industry,” Costa e Silva said. “We must yield no ground to the tobacco industry.”

To prevent further interference by tobacco industry in public health policies, the strategy requires parties to the treaty to protect national public health policies “from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.”

In addition to tighter control actions, the parties also addressed the need for tobacco control efforts to integrate strategies to combat the destructive impacts of tobacco on the environment and sustainable development.

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Since it came into force in 2005, the FCTC has resulted in national strategies and legislation that have introduced health warning on packages of tobacco and comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

As the only existing global intergovernmental meeting exclusively devoted to tobacco control, the FCTC COP has served as a platform for policy formulation and the adoption of implementation mechanisms by the parties to the convention. (IANS)