On Gandhi Jayanthi, the day the smoking ban was introduced in almost the whole country, covering designated public places, I wanted to experience the atmosphere in a Khadi Gramodyog Bhavan outlet here in Chennai. The white-clad staff were there in strength, and the portraits of the Mahatma were garlanded. As this is Navratri season, the shop was stocked with dolls for the colourful ‘kolu’ display. Unlike what one would imagine, there are leather goods available here, which are made not from skins of animals that died naturally (the so-called Ahimsa leather) but the regular leather.
In the wood handicrafts corner, I noticed several carved ashtrays for sale. It may be debatable whether the Khadi Gramodyog Bhavan should be selling ash trays, but there is little doubt that smoking is harmful. Considering that Khadi is associated with all things good, of low consumption and ethically sound, it could well decide against selling this item, however artistic it might appear to be.
On the question of smoking and the ban, it is a tragedy that we cannot bring sufficient social pressure on fellow citizens to give up the activity in public places. At the best of times, politicians will only do those things (or even appear to do anything) if there is an electoral return.
Dr. A. Ramadoss, the Minister spearheading the ban on smoking is not so concerned that we inhale the toxic sidestream smoke from two million vehicles in each of our big cities, that we drink polluted water that is laced with industrial chemicals, that many of our workers are exposed to the worst occupational environments…there seems to be little political interest in such chronic issues that only Governments can correct.
Smokers can give up voluntarily, but they cannot stop tailpipe emissions, toxic chimneys and poisonous sludge.