This lethal graph of unchecked tobacco use in our country in smoking cigarettes and biris and the consumption of chewing tobacco in pan masalas, gutkas and other products are freely available in village kiosks, slums and elsewhere. The health risks faced by ignorant, uneducated, skilled and unskilled labor force earning low wages are enormous. The addiction to these intoxicants is growing alarmingly as this conversation brings out.
One of the two persons fixing our kitchen demanded tea soon after he started work. I’d noticed by then that he was chewing something and even went out to spit. After every hour or so he’d retrieve a tiny pouch from his pocket and rub the contents on the palm of his hand and put it between his gums and cheek.It was revolting to say the least but I couldn’t shunt them half way through the work. So nauseating the scenario was that I could not help questioning him about his addiction. He had no qualms about admitting that he is an inveterate addict and consumes about a dozen tiny packs daily.When I reminded him about the dangers to his health ,he as a matter of factly blurted out that he can only expect to live a few years more with his chronic usage. He went on to disclose that most of them who had come to Punjab from other states to better their earning prospects consume as much. This is not an isolated case, construction workers; agriculture workers all have fallen prey to this deadly habit.
The vice is the result of an apathetic, corrupt and inept body politic and total indifference of the rest of us to the mounting social evils around us. When even the world community is realizing the importance of cooperation in tackling hunger, terrorism and other burning issues, how can we sit smugly brushing aside the seriousness of the malady threatening all of us?
Here is an appraisal of the situation as I understand it along with some suggestions worth mulling over.
1. The foremost need is to create awareness by educating the masses about the health hazards of the consumption of the stuff. Instilling love of life as against fatalistic tendencies should be part of the rehabilitation efforts.
2. The functionaries at the grassroots level need to be instructed and empowered to start awareness campaigns.
3. Poverty elimination by enabling lower strata of society to learn skills to be better employed and be able to improve living standards.
To impress upon the marginalized people to be more committed to their work, thereby enhancing their worth in the employment market.
4. Unchecked population increase is putting so much pressure on the limited resources and no amount of growth will be sufficient to feed our burgeoning numbers.
To restore the credibility of population control measures. The utter neglect of poor patients post family planning operations in sponsored medical camps scare people away. There is no post operative care worth the name. Many get infected and sometimes reportedly die unattended.
5. To ensure that the money meant for poverty alleviation schemes is not siphoned off in transit and reach the economically poor for whom it is meant.
6. Educating the women who can spearhead the campaigns against this malaise because they’re the worst suffers also.
7. To make our doctors and other professionals more responsive and proactive in containing the spread of the virus.
8. More de-addiction centers with staff specially trained to be compassionate and gentle and ultimately rehabilitate affected persons to lead healthy normal lives.
This surely is a serious situation and needs to be looked into forthwith at administrative levels.