Citizens' Issues
Presence on parliamentary panel of MP with tobacco-links questioned

The central government's decision to postpone implementation of pictorial warnings that asked for more space on tobacco packaging has saddened many activists


Opposition parties as well as activists on Thursday questioned as to why a BJP MP with substantial interests in the 'beedi' industry was a member of a parliamentary panel studying the harmful effects of tobacco.
Shyama Charan Gupta, a BJP MP from Allahabad, is a member of the committee on subordinate legislation on tobacco which has recommended keeping in abeyance a notification making it mandatory for all tobacco packets to carry a pictorial warning covering 85 percent of its principal display area.
"The statement shows the BJP's support for the tobacco lobby," Congress leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi told the media.
"They are claiming that nothing happens due to tobacco. The tobacco lobby is being supported by the BJP government. Forty percent cancers is caused by tobacco, top doctors have said," she asserted.
CPI-M member Sitaram Yechury said: "He (the MP) is saying things as per his business interests."
The union health ministry heeded a recommendation of the committee when it decided to keep in abeyance an October 2014 notification that made it mandatory for all tobacco packets to carry a pictorial warning covering 85 percent of its principal display area.
The recommendation is, however, not binding on the government.
Gupta had written to the committee in November last year that beedis have very little tobacco and, therefore, "nil" harmful effect -- a claim that flies in the face of reality.
Gupta, on his part, claimed that there was a global conspiracy to kill Indian beedi industry.
"There are many chain smokers who have not got cancer. This is being done by some foreign bodies. Why does WHO want to implement this in India and not in the Unites States, which is a better educated country," he said.
"You should first look into the reasons of any disease. Diabetes takes place after consumption of potato, sugar and other things. Why don't you have warnings on them," he asked.
Gupta added: "Beedis are cottage industry. This will crate unnecessary unemployment."
According to health experts, beedis are estimated to kill 600,000 people annually in India.
Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI) executive director Bhawna Mukhopadhyay said: "The motto of parliament is Satyamev Jayate. MPs who have direct interest in beedi industry should have declared their conflict of interest and should have stayed out of subordinate legislation committee."
The central government's decision to postpone implementation of pictorial warnings that asked for more space on tobacco packaging has saddened many activists.
The VHAI said it was feeling let down by the government's decision to hold the implementation of pictorial warnings with increased area.
Monika Arora, director for health promotion at the Public Health Foundation of India said: "Time and again, tobacco companies have made baseless arguments in their efforts to dilute strong pictorial health warnings and delay their implementation."


Infrastructure lending should not override national security: Rajan

"The required national push to finance infrastructure should not override financial stability, which is key to national security," RBI Governor said.


Warning of excessive lending to infrastructure posing a possible threat to the country's security, RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan on Thursday said such loans should not override overall financial stability, which is "key to national security".
"The nation has enormous financing needs in infrastructure, and far too many of our banks already have too much exposure. Big corporate infrastructure players have also taken too much debt," Rajan said at the event to mark the 80th anniversary celebrations of the Reserve Bank of India, attended, among others, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
"The required national push to finance infrastructure should not override financial stability, which is key to national security," he added.
The non-performing assets (NPAs), or distressed loans of banks in the country stood at over Rs.300,000 crore as on December 2014. NPAs of public sector banks rose to 5.33 percent of total advances in September 2014, from 4.72 percent in March 2014.
Stalled projects have been adding to banks' NPAs and the finance ministry's latest Economic Survey says that, as of December-end, these amounted to Rs.880,000 crore-worth.
"Strong national institutions are hard to build. Therefore, existing ones should be nurtured from the outside, and constantly rejuvenated from the inside, for there are precious few of them," Rajan said in a reference to the RBI.
"There has always been a constructive dialogue between the government and the bank, informed by their respective time horizons and attitudes towards risk. And history records that successive governments have invariably appreciated the wisdom of the Reserve Bank's counsel," he added.
Speaking on the occasion, Jaitley said the RBI's professionalism has served the country well.
"Starting from 1935 till today, a large part of the country's sovereign functions rests on shoulders of the RBI. From management of the country's monetary policy, inflation, rates, banking sector regulator, manager of public debt, RBI has performed them in a commendable manner," he said.


Ribeiro writes to Maharashtra DGP to treat Kumbhar’s case with seriousness
Stalwart former police officer and social activist Julio Ribeiro has appealed to Maharashtra DGP to ensure that threat to RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar by Pune Corporator Kailash Gaikwad is not taken lightly
Right to Information (RTI) activist Vijay Kumbhar’s official complaint to Pune Police Commissioner Satish Mathur against blatant threat by Corporator Kailash Gaikwad has been stonewalled with the Commissioner asking Kumbhar to file a complaint at the Shivajinagar Police Station.  Kumbhar was threatened while inspecting files on Monday in Pune Municipal Corporation. 
With Commissioner Mathur approaching the issue like a ‘postman’, Kumbhar had no choice but to send his official complaint to the Police Inspector of Shivajinagar Police Station on Tuesday, but there is silence from that end too.
Fortunately, leading activists have now come in support of Kumbhar with Julio Ribeiro directly writing to Director General of Police at Maharashtra, Sanjeev Dayal, to seriously handle the case and make the corporator responsible if God forbid, anything happens to Kumbhar. Bhaskar Prabhu, Convener of Mahiti Adhikar Manch, has also made a similar appeal.
Ribeiro, in his letter to Dayal said, “The particular instance of Corporator Kailash Gaikwad of the Pune Municipal Corporation threatening leading RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar is totally unacceptable and has to be treated with all seriousness by police officers of Pune and the State.” 
“To begin with, proper investigation in this matter should be ordered and Kailash Gaikwad should be called and clearly told that if any harm befalls RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar, he will be responsible,” the supercop has said.
Ribeiro has also copied the letter to the Pune Municipal Commissioner Kunal Kumar, requesting him to give all the information that Kumbhar requires. In the letter, he says, “Mr Vijay Kumbhar should be given all the information that he requires to ascertain whether the construction work being carried out by Corporator Gaikwad or others in Aundh area have obtained all permissions according to rules and regulations. In fact, we insist that the municipal corporation should provide all the information that he requires to ensure that good governance practices prevail.”
Given the background of constant attacks on whistleblowers, Ribeiro states that, “We have been very concerned for a long time about the attacks, which often lead to murders of RTI activists by politically connected individuals who think mostly of using muscle power to silence these activists.”
We really hope that Gaikwad is interrogated by the Pune Police instead of the Police Commissioner wasting time in playing ping- pong ball. This is the least I expect, Kumbhar told Moneylife.



Ramesh Bajaj

4 months ago

Can I have contact details of Mr. Kumbhar, as I have similar problems rey property. Would like to seek his advice

Ralph Rau

2 years ago

The BJP government in Gujarat seeks custody of Teesta Setalvad to probe misuse of Gujarat riot victims welfare fund.

While here an RTI activist seeking transparency in use of funds is being openly threatened.

By the way whatever happened to the Shiv Sena MPs who forced a fasting Mulsim to eat in the Parliament canteen ?

Shashibhushan Gokhale

2 years ago

Safety of whistle blowers is really an important aspect of good governance. It is assuring to see stalwarts like Julio Ribeiro are taking interest and helping the good cause.

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