Funny Things to Ponder

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Health Ministry and its policy making exercise on tobacco

The Health Ministry has imposed higher taxes to deter cigarette smoking, it has recommended a ban on the sale of loose cigarettes. It is asking for three-quarters of every cigarette pack to be covered with health warnings.

All these things look good while reading out in a press meet and looks like the ministry is taking some bold steps. But, I would say it's a misplaced priority and problem lies elsewhere.

Health Ministry in UPA era  

We need to control tobacco consumption.
Lets make a  blanket rule that all public spaces should have dedicated smoking zone.
Result : Police can catch you at any moment for smoking in public space and there are no smoking zone created in most of public spaces

Health Ministry in NDA/Modi Era

We need to control tobacco sales
Lets ensure that loose cigarette are not sold
Future Result : Display new board along with existing ones or put a new one stating Loose cigarette are not sold.

Now, without getting into political drama and comments, lets take a look at the issue.

Some of the nitty gritty things which Health Minister (past/present) doesnt know

1. Cigarette smoking happens as a group activity. Indians are known to smoke one cigarette by sharing in a group. 

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2. Person used to smoking 1 single cigarette might increase it to 1 pack by banning loose stick sale

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3. Loose stick would be still be sold at premium and there would loss of tax revenue. 

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On a lighter note, try finding the beetel leaf in paan shop. Most of them have become mini tobacco shops selling cigaratte, beedi, zardha etc.

4. We are Indians, we like our beedi more than cigarette, Boss 

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Cigarette consumption is mostly urban and semi urban problem. Rural areas prefer beedi and chewing tobacco.
Bidi/Beedi consumption constitutes 35 to 40 per cent of total tobacco use in the country; it is far greater than the number of cigarettes smoked.

5. Who the hell suggested cigarette to be taxed based on length? 

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Indian tax rates for cigarettes have been based on their length and filter type, which makes unfiltered and smaller cigarettes relatively cheaper.
So, ITC is planning to move into beedi and producing smaller length cigarette so that it can keep its profits, sales etc intact.

Read on :

What should instead government focus on? 

1. We should have uniform taxes on cigarettes.

No tax benefit or rebate if one is smoking unfiltered cigarette or lesser than 70mm length. The end result is same in case of tobacco which is cancer. So, why have different taxes based on length?

2. Taxes designed in such a way that product substitution doesnt happen in tobacco. 

For example, if cigarette are costlier, a person might purchase beedi.
If beedi is costiler, he/she might shift to chewing tobacco.
So, Government should ensure that entry level tobacco product are having relatively same price if it wants to control nicotine addiction.

3. Tax the beedi, tobacco, zardha etc so that overall tobacco consumption comes down. Dont focus all the attention on cigarette alone. 

According to report "The Economics of Tobacco and Tobacco Taxation in India",
Raising bidi taxes to Rs 98 per 1000 sticks would add Rs 36.9 billion to tax revenues and prevent
15.5 million current and future smokers dying prematurely; increasing cigarette taxes to Rs 3691 per 1000 sticks would further add Rs 146.3 billion to tax revenues and prevent 3.4 million premature deaths.

For long time, beedi has been kept out of all this policy making exercise stating that beedi industry employs lot of people. Tribal people make a living by collecting leaves for beedi etc.
Anything related to this sector could affect the vote bank. Therefore, politicians tend to keep away from this sector even though a considerable set of people are affected by beedi.

4. Educate the youth right at the school and college level. 

According to report "Tobacco prevention program in Indian schools" ; it was noted that if Teacher, peer group get the education at school level ; tobacco consumption would reduce drastically.

But , there is one more interesting observation which our Education Minister should take note of
Teachers, in the Indian school settings, amidst their busy schedule do not get time to revise the curriculum before its actual delivery.

Complete report on :

Revenue of cigarette companies will be impacted by the ban on loose cigarettes but the public is known for finding its way through to get around this ban. Even Cigarette manufacturers might try to introduce new forms of packing to increase sales or move into other products.

But, a ban on loose cigarette is also difficult to implement considering that there are 7-8 million retail outlets in India and regulating them at same time is going to be a nightmare.
Instead the Health ministry should ensure that people are educated and have the right education to reject the tobacco at a early stage of their life ; then it wont need such regulatory measures in place which comes with a additional cost. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Creating cultural identity

We want to make our culture proud and introduce to the world. But, we tend to miss out some simple things which would make it possible.

Search for term "Bengaluru street food" or "Bangalore street food" in Youtube and its hard to find video's which depict actual Bengaluru food scene.
Similarly, search for "Mysore street food" Shashank Soghal Mysuru Paaka shows up in 6th or 7th in the list. Thanks for English sub titles, one can get a glimpse of the street food scene.

Now, compare this with the video on street food in Mumbai, Delhi or Chennai. There are lots of chefs, travel shows based on that.

How were they able to get that?
It was the research team of these programs which would have suggested the programming heads to include these cities in their program. Research team would pick up data based on trends seen in the social media and buzzing news around.
If Mysuru can make it to the top 10 destinations to visit in year 2014, then travel and living show would like to showcase the food, culture and local customs as part of their program schedule.
At that time, they would keep the social media to pick up the trends and easily available information.

So, my request for all upcoming movie makers relying on social media. Apart from churning out loads of short movies on love, love failure and next experimental short movie ; please create video which can showcase food, culture and day to day life. English sub titles or English show would be an added advantage.
This would create parallel jobs and work related to visual communication/media in coming days. One can see , chefs/travel show visiting Benglauru to taste dosey, paddu, churmuri, nippat masale, masale soda etc.
One can see jobs like Chef consultant, Culture Expert, Cultural anthropology,Event coordinator, Travel Guide etc being created related to Kannada and Karnataka.
Since early bird always have a advantage ; one can see these small video rolling out as jobs or new avenues of income in coming days..
I think, these are the simple things which would make a lot of difference. Please give it a thought. Keep tagging people and sharing this post to people who can make this happen.

As a foot note, can I request organizing team in various companies which are conducting Kannada Rajyostava in offices or in their area to include such kind of events apart from regular kavana, rasa prashne event. This would help in creating knowledge bank on culture, food and day to day life.

Friday, November 7, 2014

ee post ge title illa

hutti dare kannada nadu nalli hutta beku..
hutti dare kannada nadu nalli hutta beku...
hutti dare kannada nadu nalli hutta beku...
It took some time for me to realize that song was playing continuously and it was not coming from the radio in the bus. Then after sometime, I woke up from the small power nap in the bus since the sound was playing continuously.
The bus crossed the dirty lanes of City Market and reached Corporation. The driver pulled up his phone and started speaking while we were waiting in the signal.
At first, he couldn't recognize the voice coming from the other end. Next, he couldn't hear correctly.. After some time, he was speaking so loud that atleast 3-4 rows behind him could listen to him.
It was a call from a stranger. He didnt know who he was and driver was trying to find out if it was a wrong number or not.
After sometime, he realized that it was a stranger calling from the hospital. My ears became little alert. The conductor who was busy writing his travel log and ticket numbers paused for a moment and looked at driver.
The driver continued the conversation and realized that his kid has been admitted to the hospital. Somebody from the hospital has been trying to reach him from last 5-10 mins.
We got to know (yeah, the awake ones and loud conversation effect) that driver's daughter has been bitten by a stray dog.
hmmm.. not a good way to start the morning .. The driver requested the stranger to pass the phone to his daughter and asked for her state and concerns.
He was more concerned if the dog has bitten her anywhere on the face. (its hard to find a guy for a girl with scar marks, Jai Ho for the society and its expectations)
Later, he found that dog has bitten the girl on her legs and neck. She sounded scared and wanted her dad to come there immediately. Dad consoled her and then said would be there soon.
By then, we had reached near to MG road as the stretch is full of signals.
Before I could jump into conversation, the conductor offered to drive and let the driver make the calls.
The driver agreed and sat in the front row trying to make calls to all his contacts. After sometime, he was able to reach his contacts and ensure that someone reaches the hospital.
At that time, I realized that kid/stranger was in government hospital with no doctor in sight. The kid wanted immediate attention and this incident might have happened in place which is far away from Bengaluru.
Driver called up his cousin, asked him to take the kid to nearest private doctor and get her treated. Looks like both didnt have money on hand, so they were discussing how to arrange for some immediate cash. Later, they settled it out. He was also telling him that he wont get leave and he has to manage the show for next 2 days till he gets his weekly off.
In the mean time, a techie with a laptop bag jumps into the bus and start walking towards his seat. Driver and Conductor together say in Kannada to get down from bus.
With his Malayalam accent and confused looks (since he didnt know Kannada) ; he says "I want to go to Raamugrthynagar".
The driver and conductor again repeat the same , this time little more louder. He gets down and gives back a stare once he is on the road.
You never know, this person might shoot the next complaint to the BMTC stating BMTC staff as rude and un-courteous.
But, someone who was in the scene would know why the driver and conductor shouted in unison for 2nd time. What was going in their mind when a commuter jumped into public bus on private/contract trip.
So, next time .. you are in the auto or bus or any public space..
Carry a smile, (I know its difficult but it helps a lot )
Learn some conversational Kannada (Dont expect public to learn your language)
Stop thinking that they are public SERVANTS. It might be their bad day same as yours on some other day !