India has indefinitely deferred its plan to increase the size of pictorial warnings on tobacco products after pressure from various lobbies. Dilip Gandhi, chairman of the committee of MPs that was looking into the issue, said “there was no Indian study to confirm that use of tobacco products leads to cancer”. This is highly improper and has upset medical experts, doctors and patients. India has the highest prevalence of oral cancer globally, with 75,000 to 80,000 new cases being reported every year. The panel referred to the “adverse impact” on the livelihoods of people involved in the tobacco industry. But did anyone bother about the destruction of the livelihoods of people involved in the beef trade when it was banned? This is terribly tragic. The committee of MPs must be reconstituted with people who have a background in the health sector.
— J.S. Acharya (Hyderabad)
United we stand
The gruesome attack on a Kenyan university, in which 147 innocent students were killed (‘147 students killed in Kenya university siege’, IE, April 3), reminds one of the horrifying attack on a school by terrorists in Peshawar last year. Cowardly acts of violence that target civilians — and educational institutions — betray the lack of humanity of terrorists. That al-Shabaab especially targeted Christian students is terrifying. African nations must come together and put up a united front to deal with the growing menace of terror, which is proving to be a major cause of instability in eastern Africa.
— Amritpal Singh (Delhi)
The Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime Bill (GCTOC Bill), like the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), will prove to be yet another instrument of state brutality. The history of POTA and MCOCA is full of examples of blatant violation of human rights and custodial torture. The pattern in which the state has deployed such “special” legislation in the past makes one wonder whether these laws are born out of the biases and prejudice of the ruling elites. The problem is that some provisions of such legislation presuppose the guilt of the accused and tip the scales of the law enforcement process in favour of the executive and against the judiciary. These acts have almost no or weak safeguards against custodial torture. Instead of scrapping such draconian laws, if more such legislation is brought in, I have no hesitation in asserting that India is going to be seen as a police state masquerading as a pluralistic, welfarist democracy.
— Dheeraj Kumar (Ranchi)
Let there be sin
Appros the editorial, ‘Smoke and mirrors’ (IE, April 3), it appears that The Indian Express is very committed to public health and the adherence of the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. But then what about your position on liquor and Kerala’s attempts to become a dry state? What about the loss of life due to drinking and alcoholism? Is this not also a public health hazard? Alcohol is responsible for innumerable road deaths. The editorial should have highlighted this instead of only talking about tobacco.
— Ravi Joshi (Mumbai)