Millennium Post

Stern message

In a stern message Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked parliamentary committees not include members, who could have a conflict of interest in framing a report over the ill effects of tobacco.  Controversy had erupted last week, when Shyam Charan Gupta, a member of the parliamentary panel of subordinate legislation chaired by Gandhi, was found to have a direct interest in the tobacco business. By his own admission, Gupta’s beedi company has an annual turnover of Rs 200-250 crore. The lawmaker’s comments arrived after the Centre decided to defer its April 1 deadline for increasing the size of pictorial warnings on tobacco products. During the meet Modi reportedly told Union Health Minister JP Nadda to enforce “larger pictorial warnings” on cigarette packets, despite the Centre’s initial decision to defer the implementation of more than 50 per cent of warning labels on packets. Before the deferment, the Health Ministry had advised that 85 per cent of packaging should carry a depiction of the damage done by smoking from April 1 onwards. The parliamentary panel, however, expressed concern that thousands of people involved with the tobacco industry will lose their livelihood under such strict measures and therefore the Centre should defer the introduction of larger pictorial warnings. Dismayed with the logic, however, Modi reportedly told Nadda to go ahead with the move at the earliest with a rehabilitation package for those involved with the industry. Reports have suggested that Modi wants to send a message across, stating that the National Democratic Alliance-led government will not buckle under pressure from various tobacco lobbies that are politically active. A stern message to tobacco lobbies or not, Modi’s decision is a welcome one. The beedi baron must recuse himself from the panel because his business interests come directly in conflict with his role as a lawmaker, trying to formulate legislation for tobacco consumption in India. Of course, in addition, the consumption of tobacco is known to have hazardous effects on the health of ordinary Indians.
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