Clamping down

Home ministry blocks foreign funds for NGO that supported health ministry's anti-tobacco drive

The Public Health Foundation of India had been working on government programmes since 2010.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has barred the Public Health Foundation of India from receiving foreign funding by revoking its registration under the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act. The ministry cited the organisation’s lobbying against tobacco use as one of the reasons for the move. However, as the foundation’s officials have pointed out, it has been working with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on anti-tobacco programmes since 2010.

The Public Health Foundation of India is a public-private initiative established to provide technical support to the health ministry on a range of issues concerning public health, including tobacco control. The foundation has worked on several research projects and organised training workshops for health workers on how to counter tobacco consumption. It took on many of these initiatives at the ministry’s request.

In July 2015, experts from the foundation were asked to present evidence before a Parliamentary Committee on Subordinate Legislation that was reviewing pictorial health warnings on tobacco packets.

Health activists working on tobacco control have said that the home ministry’s position is appalling. “We have to interact with the government on any issue related to social development, not just tobacco control,” said Sanjay Seth from Voice of Tobacco Victims, a campaign that is putting tobacco victims at the forefront of the tobacco control movement in India. “How can they officially raise [anti-tobacco lobbying] as an issue?”

Other reasons cited by the home ministry’s for cancelling the foundation’s licence include alleged violations in the use of funds for HIV/AIDS projects, remittances to foreign countries from its Foreign Contribution Regulation Act account and failure to declare all its bank accounts to the government.

In October, the government cancelled the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act licence of the Institute of Public Health in Bengaluru and Voluntary Health Association of Assam, both which have done considerable work on tobacco control. However, the reasons for their licences being cancelled were not specifically stated.

Tobacco is one of the leading causes of cancer and non-communicable diseases around the world. Every year 9.8 lakh people in India die of a tobacco-caused disease. Research done by the Public Health Foundation of India under the directives of the government estimates that the health costs attributable to tobacco use in the year 2011 for people between the ages of 35 and 69 amounted to Rs 1,04,500 crores.

“Tobacco control activity is not a criminal activity,” said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, cancer surgeon at Tata Memorial Hospital. “We are furthering the cause of government of India and augmenting the National Tobacco Control Programme.”

Health ministry not consulted

The home ministry does not seem to have consulted the health ministry before barring the foundation’s foreign funding. Three health ministry officials told Scroll.in that they had not been informed about the order and only learned about it only from newspaper articles. They said they were surprised by the home ministry’s decision.

The health ministry runs the National Tobacco Control Programme to enforce the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act and spread awareness about the harms of tobacco. The government has allocated a budget of about Rs 40 lakhs per state and Rs 47 lakhs for each of the 400 districts under the programme this financial year.

“Our stance is very clear on tobacco control,” said Dr Arun Panda, additional secretary with the health ministry, who said that the ministry will continue its work to curb tobacco consumption.

Only last year, the government made encouraging moves to curb tobacco use in the country when it mandated that pictorial warnings must cover 85% of boxes containing tobacco products, as against 40% previously. This means that after Nepal and Vanuatu, India has some of the largest pictorial warnings on tobacco packets in the world.

In November, India hosted the seventh Conference of Parties of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which takes decisions necessary to promote effective tobacco control implementation. The convention encourages countries to take measures such as outlawing smoking in public and restricting advertising and sponsorship of tobacco products. Health Minister JP Nadda made a commitment at the inaugural speech of the conference to continue efforts to regulate the use of tobacco products in the country.

However, even as the conference was underway, advertisements appeared on hoarding and even on the backs of autorickshaws alleging that anti-tobacco activists has “hidden agendas” that hurt the interests of tobacco farmers and paan wallahs.

Campaign against anti-tobacco movements portraying a tobacco farmer. Photo credit: Shoaib Daniyal.
Campaign against anti-tobacco movements portraying a tobacco farmer. Photo credit: Shoaib Daniyal.

The action against the Public Health Foundation of India comes at a time when anti-tobacco movements in India are showing some signs of success. The National Family Health Survey showed that the percentage of men and women who use tobacco has dropped in the past decade. In 2005-’06, 57% of men used tobacco, which has dipped to 44.5% in 2015-’16. In 2005-’06, 10.8% of women used tobacco which has dipped to 6.8% in 2015-’16.

Most organisations in India that work on tobacco control rely on foreign funds with much of their money coming from the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, which funds anti-tobacco programmes around the world. The home ministry’s crackdown on the Public Health Foundation of India has alarmed many activists working with these organisation. Seth of Voice of Tobacco Victims said that the home ministry’s move blatantly favours the tobacco industry. A faculty member of the Institute of Public Health alleged that might have been targeted because they were working effectively against tobacco control.

Claimed cancer surgeon Chaturvedi: “This move is conspiracy of the tobacco lobby to malign non-governmental organisations working on tobacco control.”

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Top picks, best deals and all that you need to know for the Amazon Great Indian Festival

We’ve done the hard work so you can get right to what you want amongst the 40,000+ offers across 4 days.

The Great Indian Festival (21st-24th September) by Amazon is back and it’s more tempting than ever. This edition will cater to everyone, with offers on a range of products from electronics, home appliances, apparel for men and women, personal care, toys, pet products, gourmet foods, gardening accessories and more. With such overwhelming choice of products and a dozen types of offers, it’s not the easiest to find the best deals in time to buy before your find gets sold out. You need a strategy to make sure you avail the best deals. Here’s your guide on how to make the most out of the Great Indian Festival:

Make use of the Amazon trio – Amazon Prime, Amazon Pay and Amazon app

Though the festival officially starts on 21st, Amazon Prime members will have early access starting at 12 noon on 20th September itself, enabling them to grab the best deals first. Sign up for an Amazon Prime account to not miss out on exclusive deals and products. Throughout the festival, Prime members will 30-minute early access to top deals before non-Prime members. At Rs 499/- a year, the Prime membership also brings unlimited Amazon Prime video streaming and quick delivery benefits.

Load your Amazon pay wallet; there’s assured 10% cashback (up to Rs 500). Amazon will also offer incremental cashbacks over and above bank cashbacks on select brands as a part of its Amazon Pay Offers. Shopping from the app would bring to you a whole world of benefits not available to non-app shoppers. App-only deals include flat Rs 1,250 off on hotels on shopping for more than Rs 500, and flat Rs 1,000 off on flights on a roundtrip booking of Rs 5,000 booking from Yatra. Ten lucky shoppers can also win one year of free travel worth Rs 1.5 lakhs.

Plan your shopping

The Great Indian Sale has a wide range of products, offers, flash sales and lightning deals. To make sure you don’t miss out on the best deals, or lose your mind, plan first. Make a list of things you really need or have been putting off buying. If you plan to buy electronics or appliances, do your research on the specs and shortlist the models or features you prefer. Even better, add them to your wishlist so you’re better able to track your preferred products.

Track the deals

There will be lightning deals and golden hour deals throughout the festival period. Keep track to avail the best of them. Golden-hour deals will be active on the Amazon app from 9.00pm-12.00am, while Prime users will have access to exclusive lightning deals. For example, Prime-only flash sales for Redmi 4 will start at 2.00pm and Redmi 4A at 6.00pm on 20th, while Nokia 6 will be available at Rs 1,000 off. There will be BOGO Offers (Buy One Get One free) and Bundle Offers (helping customers convert their TVs to Smart TVs at a fraction of the cost by using Fire TV Stick). Expect exclusive product launches from brands like Xiaomi (Mi Band 2 HRX 32 GB), HP (HP Sprocket Printer) and other launches from Samsung and Apple. The Half-Price Electronics Store (minimum 50% off) and stores offering minimum Rs 15,000 off will allow deal seekers to discover the top discounts.

Big discounts and top picks

The Great Indian Festival is especially a bonanza for those looking to buy electronics and home appliances. Consumers can enjoy a minimum of 25% off on washing machines, 20% off on refrigerators and 20% off on microwaves, besides deals on other appliances. Expect up to 40% off on TVs, along with No-Cost EMI and up to Rs 20,000 off on exchange.

Home Appliances

Our top picks for washing machines are Haier 5.8 Kg Fully Automatic Top Loading at 32% off, and Bosch Fully Automatic Front Loading 6 Kg and 7 Kg, both available at 27% discount. Morphy Richards 20 L Microwave Oven will be available at a discount of 38%.

Our favorite pick on refrigerators is the large-sized Samsung 545 L at 26% off so you can save Rs 22,710.

There are big savings to be made on UV water purifiers as well (up to 35% off), while several 5-star ACs from big brands will be available at greater than 30% discount. Our top pick is the Carrier 1.5 Ton 5-star split AC at 32% off.

Also those looking to upgrade their TV to a smart one can get Rs. 20,000 off by exchanging it for the Sony Bravia 108cm Android TV.

Personal Electronics

There’s good news for Apple fans. The Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch Laptop 2017 will be available at Rs 55,990, while the iPad will be available at 20% off. Laptops from Lenovo, Dell and HP will be available in the discount range of 20% to 26%. Top deals are Lenovo Tab3 and Yoga Tab at 41% to 38% off. Apple fans wishing to upgrade to the latest in wearable technology can enjoy Rs 8,000 off on the Apple Watch series 2 smartwatch.

If you’re looking for mobile phones, our top deal pick is the LG V20 at Rs 24,999, more than Rs 5000 off from its pre-sale price.

Power banks always come in handy. Check out the Lenovo 13000 mAh power bank at 30% off.

Home printers are a good investment for frequent flyers and those with kids at home. The discounted prices of home printers at the festival means you will never worry about boarding passes and ID documents again. The HP Deskjet basic printer will be available for Rs 1,579 at 40% off and multi-function (printer/ scanner/ Wi-Fi enabled) printers from HP Deskjet and Canon will also available at 33% off.

The sale is a great time to buy Amazon’s native products. Kindle E-readers and Fire TV Stick will be on sale with offers worth Rs 5,000 and Rs 1,000 respectively.

The Amazon Fire Stick
The Amazon Fire Stick

For those of you who have a bottomless collection of movies, music and photos, there is up to 60% off on hard drives and other storage devices. Our top picks are Rs 15,000 and Rs 12,000 off on Seagate Slim 5TB and 4TB hard drives respectively, available from 8.00am to 4.00pm on 21st September.

The sale will see great discounts of up to 60% off on headphones and speakers from the top brands. The 40% off on Bose QC 25 Headphones is our favourite. Top deals are on Logitech speakers with Logitech Z506 Surround Sound 5.1 multimedia Speakers at 60% off and the super compact JBL Go Portable Speaker at 56% off!

Other noteworthy deals

Cameras (up to 55% off) and camera accessories such as tripods, flash lights etc. are available at a good discount. Home surveillance cameras too will be cheaper. These include bullet cameras, dome cameras, simulated cameras, spy cameras and trail and game cameras.

For home medical supplies and equipment, keep an eye on the grooming and personal care section. Weighing scales, blood pressure monitors, glucometers, body fat monitors etc. will be available at a cheaper price.

The sale is also a good time to invest in home and kitchen supplies. Mixer-grinders and juicers could see lightning deals. Don’t ignore essentials like floor mops with wheels, rotating mop replacements, utensils, crockery etc. Tupperware sets, for example, will be more affordable. There are attractive discounts on bags, especially laptop bags, backpacks, diaper bags and luggage carriers.

Interesting finds

While Amazon is extremely convenient for need-based shopping and daily essentials, it is also full of hidden treasures. During the festival, you can find deals on telescopes, polaroid cameras, smoothie makers, gym equipment, gaming consoles and more. So you’ll be able to allow yourself some indulgences!

Small shopping

If you have children, the festival is good time to stock up on gifts for Diwali, Christmas, return gifts etc. On offer are gaming gadgets such as Xbox, dough sets, Touching Tom Cat, Barbies, classic board games such as Life and more. There are also some products that you don’t really need, but kind of do too, such as smartphone and tablet holders, magnetic car mounts for smartphones and mobile charging station wall stands. If you’re looking for enhanced functionality in daily life, do take a look at the Amazon Basics page. On it you’ll find USB cables, kitchen shears, HDMI cables, notebooks, travel cases and other useful things you don’t realise you need.

Check-out process and payment options

Amazon is also offering an entire ecosystem to make shopping more convenient and hassle-free. For the festival duration, Amazon is offering No-Cost EMIs (zero interest EMIs) on consumer durables, appliances and smartphones, plus exchange schemes and easy installation services in 65 cities. HDFC card holders can avail additional 10% cashback on HDFC credit and debit cards. Customers will also get to “Buy Now and Pay in 2018” with HDFC Credit Cards, as the bank offers a 3 Month EMI Holiday during the days of the sale. Use Amazon Pay balance for fast and easy checkouts, quicker refunds and a secured shopping experience.

Sales are fun and with The Great Indian Festival offering big deals on big brands, it definitely calls for at least window shopping. There’s so much more than the above categories, like minimum 50% off on American Tourister luggage! To start the treasure hunt, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Amazon.in and not by the Scroll editorial team.