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.
India’s Revised Vaccination Policy and Supreme Court’s Role Behind This Change in Approach
Shimla-Free vaccine to all Indian citizens above 18 years of age would be available from 21st June onwards, the Government of India announced yesterday. The Centre has also announced that private hospitals would not be able to levy arbitrary charges for vaccination and the rate would be fixed. The government also rolled back its policy for procurement of vaccines, which was under heavy criticism not only from the opposition but also from the Supreme Court of India.
Though, the Centre claimed that the roll-back was a result of the demands raised by state governments, but some believe this decision came right after harsh judicial scrutiny of the government’s previous policy by the Supreme Court, whose initiation is being lauded by the citizens of India amid this pandemic.
“Many states came forward with a demand for reconsideration of the vaccination strategy and for bringing back the system that was there before 1st May,” the Centre said while defending the rollback.
Also, the Centre was even objecting to the court’s jurisdiction in matters related to policymaking and had termed it as an encroachment on the jurisdiction of the executive. However, very mindful of its jurisdiction, the court had mitigated this allegation of the Centre by explaining how policymaking is subject to judicial scrutiny. The court made the Centre aware of the ‘dialogic judicial review’, where the Court can question the executive and demand justifications from it over non-conformity of a policy to the constitutional rights.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court had grilled the Union government over its faulty and discriminatory policy as states were left on their own for the procurement of vaccines. In its orders passed on May 31, a bench comprising of Justice DY Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat came down heavily upon the central government. The bench had termed the policy approach as “arbitrary and irrational” because it did not provide free vaccination for the 18-44 year age group. The bench had sought clarification on policy and dual pricing in which states were being made to procure vaccines directly from the manufactures and were invariably paying more for vaccines while the Centre procured the same vaccines at lower rates.
“Due to the changing nature of the pandemic, we are now faced with a situation where the 18-44 age group also needs to be vaccinated, although priority may be retained between different age groups on a scientific basis. Hence, due to the importance of vaccinating individuals in the 18-44 age group, the policy of the Central Government for conducting free vaccination themselves for groups under the first 2 phases, and replacing it with paid vaccination by the State/UT Governments and private hospital for the persons between 18-44 years is prima facie arbitrary and irrational” a bench observed while passing an order on May 31, 2021 concerning a Suo moto case on “Re-Distribution of Essential Supplies and Services During Pandemic”.
Further, the court had also expressed concerns over the digital divide which would make accessing vaccine equally difficult for a large section through online registration.
Earlier, in its orders passed on April 30, the bend had observed that this policy approach would be “detrimental to the right to life and health”. The bench had also observed that this policy requires rethinking, as it needs to be formulated in conformity with the provisions of Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution.
The bench aggressively went on to order the government to share all details of the vaccine purchase and distribution, as well as provide information on how the budget allocated for the vaccination (₹35,000 Crores ) was used.
Provisions of the New Vaccination Policy
- Procurement of 25 per cent vaccinations which was earlier with states will now be undertaken by the Government of India.
- The government of India will buy 75 per cent of the total vaccines produced and will provide it to the states free of cost. No state government would be spending anything on vaccines.
- The system of 25 per cent vaccines being procured directly by the private hospitals will continue. Private hospitals can’t charge more than 150 rupees service charge over the decided price of the vaccines.
The Centre said that this policy would be rolled out in two weeks.
“In two weeks, the Centre and states will make necessary preparations as per new guidelines,” the Centre announced yesterday.
Till today, more than 23 Crore vaccine doses have been administered in the country.
To ward off the embarrassment caused by such a contentious policy which was not conforming with the constitutional rights of the citizens, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, without referring to the judicial review, blamed it on the state governments.
“As the corona cases started declining, questions arose about the lack of choice for states and some people questioned why the Central government is deciding everything,” he said.
“India’s vaccination program was run mostly under the Central government. Free vaccination for all was moving forward and people were showing discipline in getting vaccinated when their turn came, amid all these demands for decentralization of vaccination were raised, the decision about priority to certain age groups was raised. Many types pressures were exerted and certain sections of media took it as a campaign,” the PM said.
But with that being said the role of the judiciary in making the government roll back its policy in the interest of the people is being lauded as the victory of judicial review. Also, it has attracted positive response for the apex court which was being alleged of evading several matters related to the public interest under the pressure from the current political regime.
Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana Extended Till Deepawali.
In another major announcement, the Central government announced the extension of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana till Deepawali.
As per the announcement, till November, 80 crore people will continue to get a decided amount of free food grain every month.
Wah Re Corona: Himachali Folk Artist’s Lyrical Satire is Factual Rendition of India’s Agonizing Catastrophe
Shimla-Otherwise blatantly vocal and distinctively mass-mobilizing government of India is suddenly in the most subdued self after its proclaimed victory over the deathly virus; participation in uncontrolled election rallies; and permitting maha melas. The stalwarts are in the hiding, while helpless citizens – who voted them into power not once but in landslide victories twice – are dying due to lack of oxygen, poor – unavailable – medical facilities, and the denial stance of the ignorant in the helm.
Drawing a comparison between the fatal coronavirus and the mismanagement of the entire situation by the appalling government; a Himachali folk artist has released a factually appropriate lyrical satire that will tickle your mind and leave you to imagine what has brought this catastrophe onto us. The song is written by Rameshwar Sharma and music by Lalit Sauta.
With Neighboring States Going to Curfew, Himachal’s Tourism Sector Again Comes to a Halt
Shimla-Himachal Pradesh Government may not have imposed restrictions on tourist movement, but the industry is facing the heat of second wave of coronavirus pandemic, which has now reached an alarming level. Alarmed by massive spike in new cases and fatalities, Delhi yesterday imposed a curfew for six days.
Further, with neighboring states including Panjab and Haryana going into a lockdown-like situation with the imposition of weekend curfews, tourist influx in Himachal Pradesh has dropped drastically, hitting the tourism industry in Himachal Pradesh. Last weekend the hotels claimed the occupancy was almost zero. The hoteliers and other stakeholders said the current situation is similar to what they faced during the lockdowns last year. After lockdowns spoiled the peak tourist season of the last year, the industry is hardly in a position to take another blow, hoteliers said.
Conditions in Himachal are no better. In 19 days of April month alone, the state has recorded over 14,000 cases and the infection has claimed 155 lives, which is a massive surge in a very short duration. The rates of the surge in new cases and fatalities have also been recorded to be much higher as compared to the previous year.
The state government on Monday said that all educational institutions of the State would remain close till May 1 2021, and faculty of schools, colleges and universities wouldn’t have to come to duty.
The State Government also decided to put a complete ban on transfers of field functional staff.
Right after getting a nod from the Centre, the state government had also postponed the board and UG examinations. Further, the HP Board of School Education is reportedly mulling over promoting class 10 students.
Chief Minister on Monday also said that the government could take more decisions to contain the spread in the meeting to be held on April 22. Some media reports said that the state government has hinted at the imposition of a curfew. While interacting to media yesterday, Chief Minister had also said that there are no plans for a complete lockdown, but if the situation continues to worsen, a curfew can be imposed. The Chief Minister had been maintaining that a lockdown would be the last resort as it would hurt the tourist influx, thus, cause economic damages.
However, if the businessmen and hoteliers are to be believed, currently keeping the state open for tourism is hardly providing any relief. Moreover, they are not able to differentiate between a curfew and lockdown. They have begun to seek relief from the state government.
On the other hand, in case the state decides to impose a curfew, the situation would get quite difficult for the poor, especially migrant workers, daily wagers, and small street-side vendors too.
Further, fear of the collapse of health infrastructure haunts the state as the government is still in the phase of passing directions to the officers to enhance the bed capacity in the hospitals. As per the statement given by Chief Minister on Monday, the state is yet to take steps to ensure the proper availability of oxygen and staff.
“Steps would be taken to ensure the proper availability of oxygen and medical staff in the State. Bed capacity would be enhanced in Nerchowk Medical College, IGMC Shimla, Zonal Hospital Dharamshala, Tanda Medical College, Sunder Nagar Hospital and various other hospitals. Health workers would be posted in appropriate number for the care of Covid-19 patients,” Chief Minister said.
Chief Minister is being condemned for not completing make-shifts hospitals during the lockdown period along with strengthening the health services the way the it was required.
With the re-notification of Shimla’s DDU hospital- one of the busiest in the state- as a dedicated COVID care hospital, the OPDs has been closed. With the ongoing surge in new cases, more hospitals are likely to be re-notification as dedicated COVID care hospitals, and regular OPDs would be closed for other daily patients.
Moreover, for setting bad examples for the people, all political parties and their leaders, including Chief Minister Jairam Thakur, had faced severe criticism over blatant violation of COVID-19 protocols during campaign rallies for the elections to the Municipal Corporations. As a result, the public is hardly taking the second wave seriously and lowering their guards against the infections, which is only worsening the situation.
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