The education department has directed the government schools in the state not to participate in Conrad Challenge, sponsored among others by Foundation for a Smoke-Free World.
An order was issued last Tuesday by Director General School Education (DGSE), Punjab, following letters from Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and Punjab health department, as the smoke-free world accepts funding from international tobacco major Philip Morris International (PMI).
According to the education department, the Conrad Challenge— an initiative by a US-based foundation run by the wife of NASA astronaut Charles Conrad, who flew in the second spacecraft to moon — had invited students in the age group of 13 to 18 “to create products or services that address some of the most pressing global challenges for the year 2018-19”.
It said they might have contacted the schools directly, warning the government institutes not to respond.
According to the Conrad Challenge website, however, the team registrations are “closed for 2018-19”.
The DGSE order has an attached copy of the letter from Punjab health department issued in November by the director, Health Services.
According to the letter, PMI is behind the smoke-free world foundation and is part of the company’s campaign to portray itself as solution to global tobacco epidemic.
The health department letters says that according to the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), the main aim is to curb the industry’s “interference” in the campaign.
DGSE Parshant Goyal told The Indian Express that they had also received an advisory from the MHRD, Government of India, apart from the letter from the health department. “The MHRD had directed us to issue instructions to the schools to stay away from such competitions because such organisations contact the school directly without informing the education department authorities,” said he, however, adding that no one from Conard Challenge has approached the department till date.