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Friday, November 2, 2012


There is always a trigger point, which prompts me to reflect on a societal concern, having grave undercurrents. This one happened as a chance encounter with two young workers; I engaged to renovate my kitchen. My interaction with the duo dragged me to an unknown, sordid world of disease, sickness and chronic addictions to tobacco consumption in one form or the other. This caused a major perception upheaval inside me. I was alarmed at my ignorance about the reality of millions of Indians belonging to poorer sections of society, and about whose life I have not given much thought. The converse revealed the magnitude of the scourge, being the bearer of unsung fatalities amongst our country’s large population.

Piteously we consider ourselves safe in our cocooned existence, wearing rose tinted glasses as if nothing’d happen to disturb our comfort zones. I, dear friends am not going to give any statistics to prove my point. That is not my purpose. Just wish to remind ourselves that all along we’d been ignoring the tell tale signs, like colored spittle stains on walls, stairs and bathrooms at public places where we sort of close our eyes, because it is so disgusting. We pass by cautiously and don’t give it a second thought in our hectic pace of life.Whereas this bane keeps proliferating under our very eyes amidst marginalized sections of society.
Enlightened people like us can’t shovel it behind our backs and breathe easily. We all know our state machinery has been woefully lax in monitoring the progress of time bound schemes earmarked for the upliftment of the deprived multitudes. It becomes incumbent on community members and non government organizations to be proactive in finding ways and means to contain this wretchedness, otherwise millions will die a premature death from various diseases, including some type of cancers, lung infections and other communicable diseases. Just reflect how many they’d infect before dying untimely deaths? Unfortunately our public health system is in shambles and totally ill equipped to fight this widely spreading curse and even rich (all agog with money and materials) won’t be able to shelter themselves from the consequences of its spread. These people are part of our life now. They build our houses, tend our gardens and do odd jobs for us. Their wives clean our houses and help us in many ways. Through them we get an insight into their miseries.
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.

PL. comment 


  1. Wonderful post highlighting the dangers of tobacco and also offering solutions!

  2. A great post Uppal! Thank you!!

  3. Hi Magiceye,Thanks for the encouraging words.Your posts and images are a great inspiration in finding beauty and meaning in things around us.

  4. Hi Amit,
    Thanks a lot!

    Your sensibilities and sensitivities are reflected in your creations,be it images of nature or pictures in words.And I love them.

  5. I think my comment is missing from this post!

    A multi pronged solution is required , as suggested by you.

    Every one wants to be on a high. Be it the autowallah or the worker. They say it makes them feel less stressed!!!

  6. Hi Pattu,
    Oh yes you're right. I also think it makes them forget their miseries. But at what cost to their health?
    Your bottom two lines say a lot.
    Thank you!

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