Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Pay suicide tax, but die in private. In public, you will be fined.

Congratulations. After importing cigarettes, we have finally imported a ban from countries that provide free, good-quality healthcare to their people. The ban is legal and constitutional. The morals, however, are questionable. But in a country of hypocrites at the helm, what else can you expect? It follows a law passed by parliament, hence is binding and smokers will do a lot of good to not only their lungs but also their budget because there will be these guys out there to penalise them. By the way, these guys are probably paid from the exorbitantly taxed cigarette packs. They make money by allowing you to kill yourself and then they make some more if you commit that slow suicide in public.

The health missionaries led by Anbumani Ramadoss are sure smoking kills. Medical research also says so. The cigarette pack says so. But Anbumani Ramadoss does not have the minerals to ban the stick that is responsible for 40 per cent of all deaths in India, his figure not mine. Nobody believes him. His fellow minister in the Home department has told the court to ignore his blather (Ramadoss says remove ban on gay sex, home ministry says Ramadoss is talking nonsense). His standing in the government apart, smoking, passive or active, is dangerous. Only that he doesn’t have the resources or morals to stand up and ban smoking. The government, knowing fully well that smoking kills, continues to earn money from killing people.

It is the same government that sells alcohol and also has a prohibition department run by babus getting fat on your taxes. All they do is put up hoardings and make C-grade commercials to discourage people from drinking. By the way, a lot of people die because of drinking, passively. Drunk men keep knocking down pedestrians on road. Some drunk men flash pistols and even shoot and kill. You don’t need examples. Drinking does kill people who have not been drinking.

The purpose of the ban is to protect non-smokers from cigarette fumes. This sounds so logical. No smoker has the right to smoke into a non-smoker’s face. But banning it in all bars, pubs and hotels is illogical. For example, a city can have smoking bars and non-smoking ones. That gives a choice to both who smoke and those who don’t. Not allowing office buildings to define a smoking area is also taking the ban too far. Those not into passive smoking, I know at least one, can avoid the enclosure meant for smokers.

Pan Masala may cause cancer, gutkha apparently will do so. They are packed in little plastic pouches that even rag pickers don’t find worth picking. These pouches clog our drains that cause diseases that kill people who may not be chewing tobacco. In eastern India, people chew tobacco in different forms — khaini, gul and gudakhu being the prominent ones. So people will kill themselves anyway.

Countries like the UK have banned smoking because the government takes care of the citizens’ health. In India, rural healthcare is a scam. In cities, those who can afford to stay away from government hospitals do just that: stay away. But then providing healthcare to every citizen is not a priority and will not be as dramatic either, so health hawks prefer bans that have more drama and less substance.
Congratulations, again, because the will of the non-smoking majority has succeeded. Only that we do not have the balls to even fathom the will of the majority in Kashmir. Numbers matter. Caste-based reservation has its merits but no politician worth his khadi undie dared opposing it, even for the sake of healthy debate, in parliament. Gender-based reservation invites furious debate and is never passed. The same goes for reservation for Muslims, who are joined by Christians now in experiencing how the majority ramrods its will.

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