Shimla-A video showing some boys and girls of a school experimenting with tobacco appeared on social media platforms WhatsApp and Facebook on Monday, March 4, 2019. All the students were in school uniform, though it is not confirmed yet whether students were of a government or private school. From the dialect used by these students in conversation with each other, it can be guessed that the video is recorded in some part of lower Himachal.
For the public, it is an OMG moment, which they are not able to resist sharing on social media.
Apparently, the video went viral in no time, raising questions over the productivity of school campaigns organized by the State Police and Government to create awareness among studentsabout ill habits like smoking and substance and drug abuse.
Local media also got its hands on the video and uploaded it with disregard to the fact that it contains visual of minors. It is pertinent to mention that the Juvenile Justice Board legally prohibits making any such content public which violates a minor’s right to privacy and causing embarrassment or humiliation.
The person who recorded it was heard telling students that he has filmed them smoking and that he would go to their school with it. Speaking in the same local dialect, he appears to be someone who is unaware of laws related to minors. His sharing this clip on WhatsApp could be attributed to this lack of awareness.
However, media persons are expected to be aware of the laws. Opposed to it, the regional news portals hardly compromise viewership in effort to upholdethics of journalism.The regional media portals compete with online editions of national Hindi dailies for viewership. They want to be faster than these dallies, which makes it difficult to accommodate ethics while reporting.
Himachal Watcher tried to confirm if the video was old or morphed. HW searched the web and consulted some journalists working with Hindi dailies and online portals. Though the police could not confirm anything about the school or the authenticity of it, the video did not appear tobe old or edited.
There are two major reasons why the public should refrain from sharing such videos of minors on social media platforms.
It’s an Offence
First, it’s a legal offence and there is a punishment for it.
Himachal Watcher talked to legal consultant Deven Khanna about the laws strictly prohibiting exposing such visual content containing minors to the public.
Right to privacy of a child under article 21 of the Constitution is violated when such images are spread without his consent and against his interest, it can lead to harassment and abuse. Right to privacy as (stated by Supreme Court) with its attendant values assures “dignity” to the individual, and it is only when life can be enjoyed with dignity can liberty be of true substance. Privacy ensures the fulfilment of dignity.
said Deven Khanna.
He guided us to The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act that lays down:
The media should not disclose the names, addresses or schools of juveniles in conflict with the law or that of a child in need of care and protection, which would lead to their identification. The exception, to the identification of a juvenile or child in need of care and protection, is when it is in the interest of the child. The media is prohibited from disclosing the identity of the child in such situations.
Similarly, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) stipulates that:
No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation.
The child has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks, said Deven.
Article 40 of the Convention, states that the privacy of a child accused of infringing penal law should be protected at all stages of the proceedings, he said.
Second, it could prove to be a disaster that may push these tender victims deeper into drug/substance abuse.
It Would Do More Harm Than Good
If we take a careful look at the video and hear their conversation, then there is a very crucial perspective, which is being neglected completely.
From their conversation, it is not hard to figure out that most of these students were newly introduced to tobacco, suggesting they were in still the experimentation phase. Adolescents are the most vulnerable population to initiate tobacco use. There are piles of scientific research studies to establish this fact. Adolescence tobacco use is a global issue and researchers have worked on several aspects in hope to determine what makes adolescence most vulnerable to tobacco use.
In the video, one of the girls is showing her friends she can exhale smoke through the nostrils. Some of them do not even know how to take a puff.
Why you smoke it? What do you experience; one of the girls can be heard asking her friends curiously.
A boy and a girl can be heard inviting another girl to try a smoke. They encourage her to inhale it properly.
“It’s ok, inhale it,” a boy tells a girl while handing her a smoke.
The girl tries it and ends up coughing and leaves the smoke. Only two of them appeared to be smoking for a while.
Their conversation and body language suggested the usual reason for an inclination towards this bad habit – a sense of adventure and peer influence. By the time children reach adolescence, their sense of exploration and self-identity also intensify, which is a natural process.
What Does Psychologists Say
HW talked to Ranjana Sharma, who has worked as a school counselor for over five years and is also perusing her PhD in Psychology from Himachal Pradesh University.
This is an unethical and unlawful way to deal with school students in their adolescence. It could bring a lot of embarrassment for these tender minds and cast long-term adverse effects on the personality of these students. That’s the reason the Juvenile Justice Board has prohibited the publishing of any content that violates the privacy of the minors,
She explained that the circulation of this video would lead to the identification of these school students, at least in their respective localities. Within no time, the entire school staff and other students would be spotting these students out.It would lead to their branding as bad students. These, like in most cases where students are caught in such situations, would become a topic of staff-room gossip.
They would be facing regular teasing from other students and their social circle. They would become vulnerable to bullying. It would be too much for adolescent minds to cope with. A continuous negative reinforcement could push them deeper into substance/drug abuse, she said.
Instead of uploading this video directly on social media, the person who shot it should have approached the principal of their respective school and shares this video with him/her. In an ideal situation, the principal would have identified the students and with the help of staff members could have referred them to the school
So, here, in the lack of a counselor, the school should summon the parents and make them aware of the instance. The principal must ensure that the identity of these students remains confidential and the staff must be advised to do the same.
In case, it is not possible to elicit the name of the school from students, then one can go to the local police station and provide them with a copy of the video for investigation.
Again, the police would have to ensure confidentiality regarding the identity of the students.
This matter is more complicated than it would appear to a layman. It is now well established that most of the adult users of tobacco start tobacco use in childhood or adolescence. Researchers also suggest the age at first use of tobacco has been reduced considerably. Moreover, this section is the prime targets of the tobacco industry.
There are several factors leading to the initiation of tobacco use in adolescence. It’s a complex amalgam of factors like risk-taking behaviors, easy access, advertising and exposure to tobacco products at the point of sale, personality factors, the macho feeling, underlying emotional and psychological problems, peer influence etc.
Researches On Early
Adoloscence Tobacco Use
Poor school performance, truancy, school dropout, and low aspiration for the future are found related to early use of tobacco.
As per 2003 study titled “Tobacco use by Indian adolescents” published in a research journal,
Adolescents typically become addicted to nicotine while still being teenagers. Usual interval between the first cigarette consumption and daily smoking is 1–2 year(s). More than half of the adolescent smokers try to quit smoking every year with fewer than 20% being able to quit for a month.
Smoking by a close relative (father, mother, sister/brother) or friends isalso associated with smoking by the adolescent.
As per a 2018 Indian cross-section study on tobacco consumption practice in school going adolescent of a Gujarat city,
Adolescent generally aspire for tobacco consumption from their parents or any family member. Prevalence of tobacco consumption was higher in adolescents of the family having any tobacco consuming member (81.91%). Family problems led adolescents to use tobacco. Prevalence of tobacco consumption was significantly higher (64.78%) in adolescents coming from families where family problems were very common.
As per a study titled “Longitudinal study of adolescent tobacco use and tobacco control policies in India”,
Exposure to tobacco advertisements and products at the point-of-sale has been linked to adolescent tobacco use, increased brand recognition in students, impulse purchases of tobacco in smokers, and exposures are concentrated in low-income neighbourhoods.
Working status of the mother plays a crucial part in the development of their children. Adolescents of working mothers were more prone to tobacco consumption in comparison to adolescents whose mothers were housewives. The difference related to the working status of mother and tobacco consumption by their adolescents was statistically significant
A 2019 study tries to assess the association between socio-demographic factors such as age, gender, the area of residence, father’s education, and standard of living and the likelihood of tobacco use in adolescence.
The Indian Government is officially running several programs like National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP), National Adolescents Health Programme (NAHP) and National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancers, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS.)
However, the situation is not getting any better.
The government needs to understand that this situation can be best handled with a scientific approach.
counselor, over plain lectures, I develop actual activities to create awareness about the ill effects of tobacco use of drug/substance abuse. The students take part in these activities with more interest,
At the same time, to deter the public from uploading such content on social media, the Cyber Cell of the State Police and the Government need to take steps to create awareness regarding laws related to minors.
Amid Surge in COVID-19 Cases in Himachal, Speculation of Complete Lockdown Gains Momentum
Shimla-The number of COVID-19 cases is rising at an alarming rate in Himachal Pradesh as for the past five consecutive days, the state had been reporting nearly 100 cases per day. With Monday’s 95 new cases, the tally for the state jumped to 2270. The number of active cases has crossed the 1000 mark to reach 1025 on Monday. So far, 1216 patients have recovered while 12 of them succumbed to COVID-19 infection.
Among Monday’s cases, Sirmaur district reported the highest 31 cases from Govindgarh (mohalla) locality in Nahan. Complete lockdown of two days was imposed in this area but the spurt in cases continues. Fifteen new cases were reported from Baddi and Parwanoo in Solan district while remaining cases were reported from Bilaspur (11), Mandi (10), Kangra (16), Shimla (5), Una (2), Hamirpur (1), and Chamba (3).
In Shimla, five family members of a policeman, who had tested positive a couple of days ago, also tested positive.
HP Health Department’s COVID-19 Bulletin July 27, 2020 (9PM)
Some leaders of the ruling party (BJP) continue to invite criticism for behaving irresponsibly. The government itself is not learning any lesson from the situation in Govindgarh- a hot spot where the outbreak was triggered due to a marriage ceremony.
On Monday, the opposition Congress filed a police complaint against three persons including a BJP leader for violating rules by roaming around and meeting a large number of people instead of placing themselves under home-quarantine. The opposition said that samples of these persons were taken after they showed symptoms of the COVID-19 infection. Still, these persons kept roaming around after giving samples. The opposition has also alleged a discrimination was seen in initiating legal action for violations of social distancing norms. In Spiti, hundreds of tribal women were booked for staging protest against Minister Ram Lal Markanda for not adhering to the resolution passed by the locals regarding mandatory quarantine for all including the residents of the district. Cases have been filed against the opposition Congress too for violating these norms during recent protests.
Earlier, a leader from Mandi had introduced the coronavirus in Chief Minister’s office and the State secretariat and infected about two dozen of his contacts including the Advocate General and his family. The leader reportedly visited the IGMC, Shimla, State High Court and other offices.
Now, another ex-MLA from Nadaun and the Vice-Chairman, HRTC, was reported to have met several party workers and even attending an event as the chief guest. Vijay Agnihotri reportedly continued shopping, roaming around, and meeting people after giving a sample. Reportedly, he also attended a marriage ceremony. The district administration would now have a task to trace all his contacts.
At the sametime, the Congress was also seen disregarding the social distancing norms during their recent protests against the hike in bus fare.
Laxity in Organization of and Checking Gathering in Govt Events
While the state government has issued guidelines for attending funerals and marriages, there is hardly any seriousness when it comes to organizing government or the party events. The ‘havan’ organized in Shimla where hundreds of people had gathered and several party leaders including Chief Minister Jairam Thakur had visited it. The event had invited criticism as the Chief Minister and workers of BJP Mahila Morcha were seen disregarding every social distancing norm.
An employee of HP University also tested positive recently. A few days prior to the confirmation of this case, an event was organized at the varsity on the occasion of the Foundation Day a large number of people including media persons were present.
Amid such a sharp increase in cases, instead of being so lax, the government is supposed to prohibit any such gathering or at least issue guidelines regarding the maximum number of persons allowed to attend such events/functions.
Solan district where the total COVID-19 cases have reached 553 has begun to witness a shortage of health staff. The BBN area is the worst hit and has reported about 80 percent of the total cases in Solan. According to a media report, there are only 10 doctors at the CHC at Nalagarh and six at the Civil hospital, Baddi. There are only 28 nurses.
Amid this panic, the public, especially from Shimla district has been suggesting the imposition of a lockdown and questioning the government over still keeping the border open for tourists. To make thing even worse, there are instances where people violated quarantine rules after their samples were taken or were not monitored properly. In Mandi district’s Bagsaid market, a person had opened his meat shop giving a sample. It was after the arrival of his report that the shop was closed.
Further, the online opinion poll of the State Government inviting public opinion over the imposition of a complete lockdown in the state has led to speculations of a possible lockdown from August 1st. The matter regarding a lockdown is expected to be taken up in the Cabinet meeting to be held on July 30. The public is confused and preparing to stock up ration/essentials or planning to leave for villages. Several readers have also been writing to Himachal Watcher to inquire about the possibility of imposition of a complete lockdown.
First Open for Tourism, Then Train Staff, HP Govt Goes Topsy Turvy
Shimla- In the last week, the Himachal state government has taken decisions that could have a long-lasting impact on citizens without consulting or even informing all stakeholders.
First, it came out with guidelines for tourism that did not have any inputs from the tourism industry. Second, it decided to open the state for tourism without consulting hotel and travel industry or keeping village pradhans in the loop.Six days after the decision to allow tourist activity and opening State borders for tourists, the state government of HP has decided to train people employed with the industry.
“Online training for the Hospitality sector would also be held in wake of COVID-19. About 10,000 candidates would be provided one-day training on hygiene and sanitation procedures. Three weeks training on basic essential of a tourist guide communication skill etc. would be provided to about four hundred candidates,”
said Chief Minister Jairam Thakur in a review meeting with Tourism Industry officials on 8th July. It’s surprising that the Government did not find the time to either have this ‘1 day training’ program ready or train the staff of hotels and restaurants before throwing open state borders for tourists. The government gave no time to the hotel industry to understand, prepare and implement directions given in the issued SOPs.
Major Hotel Associations have already decided to keep hotels closed at least till September and Village Pradhans have also refused to allow tourists into their jurisdiction. The Chief Minister said that the State Government is following the lead of states such as Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Goa, Kerala etc. where the Governments have decided to open the State for tourists.
To enter Himachal Pradesh, tourists have to meet three conditions, a valid booking for at least five days, a COVID-19 test report from an Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) certified laboratory not older than 72 hours and their vehicle should have a sanitisation certificate.
About 600 tourists have already entered Kangra district. Police arrested a couple in Kangra district who managed to enter the State by furnishing a fake COVID-19 negative report.
“A case was registered at Damtal police station against a couple who entered HP from Bhadroya barrier based on fake COVID Negative test report. Legal action is being initiated against them for cheating, fraud & forgery. They are currently lodged in an institutional quarantine facility at Parour,”
SP, Kangra, Vimukt Ranjan, said confirming the report. In another case in Kullu, five tourists, who managed to enter the State and reach Bajaura barrier in Kullu, were detained for not carrying required documents. A total of 12 tourists have been allowed in to Kullu district after they met the three conditions needed for tourists.
According to Kullu district police, about 70 tourists from Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh etc. were sent back for not fulfilling conditions prescribed by the State Government. Tourists who should be sent back for a lack of required documents and fulfilling conditions given in the SOPs issued by the State Government are able to cross barriers at borders, like Parwanoo and Swarghat.
Police manning barricades are also frontline staff who are at risk.
We have provided police who are manning the barricades with N95 masks, raincoats that will serve a double purpose for rain and COVID protection and long gloves, policemen over the age of 50 years and those with existing conditions are not deployed at barricades,
said DSP, Kullu, Priyank Gupta.
While the majority of the hospitality industry players, (which is worst hit by the loss of business), is against opening the State for tourism, there are some, especially those who have leased hotels and taken loans who want to open for tourism. However, until the state government takes steps to add healthcare facilities and make more dedicated COVID hospital wards especially in rural areas, large scale tourism could endanger locals.
Govt Legitimizing and Legalizing Environmental Violations for Business by Amending EIA Rules: Activists
Shimla-While in statements, the politicians in power at the Centre and State Governments have been expressing concerns over environmental issues and ensuring the people that they are committed to protect and preserve the environment, the reality is contrary to it. The most recent evidence is the proposed 2020 draft amendments to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification. With these amendments, the process of environmental assessment before granting permission to execute commercial projects, like hydropower projects in Himachal Pradesh, would be reduced to merely a formality.
Environmental activists and people’s organisations from across Himachal have written to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to scrap the 2020 draft amendments to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification proposed by it.
These activists and environmental protection groups are of the opinion that the EIA Notification, first issued in 1994 under the Environment Protection Act 1986, is a critical mechanism that regulates clearances granted to all kinds of development projects and economic activities in the country. It is one of the environmental decision-making processes that makes it mandatory for project developers to not just study the socio-economic, ecological and other impacts of a proposed project but also place them in front of the affected communities for their opinions and objections, thus, ensuring the process of a free, fair and informed consent. However, this notification has been amended and read down several times in the last two decades, in favour of ‘easing the norms’ for business. The latest draft continues to move in the direction of rendering the EIA process a mere formality.
The submission made by HP groups states,
“In the context of the already vulnerable and sensitive Himalayan region, flouting of various provisions of even the present EIA notification has heavily impacted the local ecology and livelihoods of the people. The new amendments will only legitimize and legalize these violations and this will mean irreparable damage to the Himalayan ecosystem”.
The key objections raised are around exemptions of a variety of projects from the mandatory ‘Public Consultation’ process as well as the dismantling of this process itself.
“The reduction of the time prior to public hearing from 30 to 20 days is also highly objectionable. In the given 30 day period itself, the information about Public hearings does not reach all the affected areas which are often spread out widely in case of mountains with some project-affected communities residing in remote and inaccessible terrains. Here accessing information takes a long time and reducing this time to 20 days will completely exclude such people from raising their grievances and suggestions in the public consultation. This is a clear attempt to block their participation in the environmental decision-making process”
said R.S Negi of Him Lok Jagriti Manch, Kinnaur.
“It is shocking that the amendments include allowing post-facto clearance, which means that the project proponent can start work and before they have obtained environmental clearance. If the basic precautionary principle on which the EIA notifications is grounded is itself not followed it can lead to a disastrous situation for the ecology and local people. In this situation who is going to be responsible for the losses? If the project proponent is not in a position to pay for losses, will the MoEF&CC take the responsibility of losses? This provision will encourage project developers to bypass the process of environmental decision making. We absolutely oppose this amendment”,
said Prakash Bhandari of Himdhara Collective.
The 2020 draft also dilutes the guidelines for monitoring and compliance of Environment conditions.
“Already the system of monitoring is weak, the conditions lose, the pollution control board and companies non-accountable, thus, leading to widespread destruction of local ecology and impacting health, lives, and livelihoods of project-affected communities. In the case of hydropower projects, for instance, the illegal and unmonitored dumping of muck along river beds, in forests and on common lands, has damaged pastures, disrupted the flow of the rivers, and caused massive disasters when floods occur. The proposed changes will give a free reign to those profiting from extractive and polluting projects,”
according to Kulbhushan Upmanyu of Himalaya Bachao Samiti.
It is ironic that on one hand, the global COVID crisis has thrown up several studies showing that pandemics like COVID emerge from ecological degradation and forest loss, and on the government is pushing for policy changes which will accentuate the environmental crisis that the country is already reeling under.
“If the MoEF&CC wants to change the environmental laws, it should carry out countrywide regional consultations”,
added Uma Mahajan of Himachal Van Adhikar Manch.
The country, especially ecologically diverse yet climate-vulnerable regions like the Himalayas need a robust and strong environmental regulatory and governance regime that makes project proponents accountable and keeps the affected communities and ecological concerns at the centre of the EIA and environmental decision-making process.
Notably, MoEF&CC had called for citizen’s comments before May 11 but this deadline was extended upto June 30 and now August 11 as environmentalists and concerned groups expressed outrage that calling for public inputs on this critical law amidst the COVID led lockdown was unjustified. The MoEF&CC has in this period received thousands of objections highlighting the new draft as anti-people and environment.
The demand is to scrap these proposed amendments for the sake of the environment.
Submission Made to Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change by Activists and Organizations
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