On the verge of penury, a poor man gets a new leash of life when he comes to know that he is rich by three and a half lakh rupees.

Moosa, an illiterate Mazdoor, who toiled for electricity department for 15-20 years as a DRM, and finally got regularised a couple of years before his retirement was surviving hand to mouth in a small hut in Nayapuram. He had commenced construction of a small house with whatever he got as his retirement benefits. With the onset of monsoon and empty pocket, he realised that he could neither complete his shelter nor feed his family. 

A shy and introvert by nature, Moosa did not approach anybody. Most of his life, with a family of seven members, he was habituated to survive on peanuts. But this time, his concern was the half-complete house under construction and the dilapidated state of his hut.  

With no other option left, he decided to approach Humane Touch, a voluntary organisation working in his neighbourhood, which had constructed a house for a poor family last year. He sought their help in completing the construction work. They did go and see Moosa’s house. They were shocked to learn that a man who had been in service could not even complete construction of his house. They enquired about the retirement benefits. 

When Moosa informed Abdul Razak, President Humane Touch, Nayapuram and Abdul Aziz, Secretary that he had got Rs 160000/- as retirement benefits, when superannuated on 31st July 2010, both of them were surprised. All the money went into the construction work. They asked Moosa to show his service records. On verification, they found out that Moosa had been paid only leave encashment and GPF. His gratuity and commutation of pension was due, which he was unaware of. His monthly pension was yet to start.

Moosa was unable to explain. He had satisfied himself that his regular service was for a short period and was totally ignorant about the benefits he was entitled to. Aziz could not take anymore. He took the papers and approached the pay and accounts department and account section of Electricity department. 

The system got activated and in a matter of ten days, the whole issue was settled. He got his gratuity, commutation of pension and his arrears of monthly pension up to May 2011. He got a cheque of Rupees Three Lakhs Seventy Five Thousand.

It is not a sin in our system to wait eternally for the benefits to reach the susceptible and illiterate labour force, but it is a sin of great magnitude to keep someone in ignorance and darkness about the service benefits. 

Our efficiency does not lie in serving the upper crest of the society, but by taking care of those who lie in the lower level of our social strata.

If Moosa had not approached the NGO, or the NGO had not approached the department, the family, already in destitution would not have even known that a huge amount was lying somewhere due to the indifference or negligence of some officers. It is still a mystery why the poor man was kept in dark about the benefits he was entitled to. 

The intervention by Humane Touch at the right time made Moosa richer by three lakh rupees. The construction work has started again and will be complete in a couple of weeks. Moosa is a satisfied man now, who was unbelievably saved from the brink of indigence.




World Environment Day was first celebrated on 5th June in 1972, and has since become an important vehicle through which the UN stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action. In the face of continuing deforestation (currently estimated at 5.2 million hectares worldwide per year) nothing could have been more pertinent than this year’s theme of ‘Forests: Nature at Your Service’ which underscores the intrinsic link between quality of life and the health of forests. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has named India, for the first time, as the global host of World Environment Day 2011 on June 5, for “embracing the process of a transition to a Green Economy.”
 
Environment is what we live in and breathe in. It is as much of our own creation as it is of nature. 
 
The five sacred elements which make the environment live-able are water, air, fire, earth, and our spirit or senses. Our relationship with them helps us to live in harmony with nature and in peace with ourselves. Air, which is so essential to survive, represents our mind and knowledge. Fire symbolizes energy of the sun as well as of our bodies, which should be used for healing and protection and not for destruction. Clean and pure water is sacred to life and is like our emotions which can cleanse with love or devastate with rage. Earth nourishes life and stands for our bodies and we must take care of mother earth as we take care of our bodies.
 
Our senses or spirit represent our core values of ethics and responsibility as protectors of the earth and her people. This circle of the elements of life helps us to remember to consider the whole, and not merely, a part of a problem or solution.
Alas! We seem to have lost our minds, dissipated our energies, ruined our emotions, ravaged our bodies and torn our moral fibre beyond repair. Why else (in our insatiable greed) would we turn the free bounties of nature into sale-able commodities, and ravage its treasures like marauders? 
 
Life became possible on earth because it had an atmosphere conducive to sustain living beings. But for us it became the proverbial goose which laid just one golden egg each day, enough for its owners to live comfortably. Greed overpowered common sense and we killed the goose to get all the gold at one go. This has left us gasping for fresh clean air and panting for clear drinking water, let alone other basic necessities of life. 
 
Of course, we love to talk of global warming, climate change, carbon foot prints and bio diversity, but care two hoots about protecting our forest and now, even, agricultural lands. We love to construct special economic zones over fertile land. Industry wants to prosper on empty stomachs. As for our green cover, we do not mind recklessly pulling down trees to make way for broader roads, and bigger residential/commercial establishments. How does it matter to us if our summers are becoming hotter and winters cooler? We have our cooling and heating gadgets in place and to hell with the majority of those who cannot afford them. We systematically pollute and deplete our natural water resources, and then cling proudly to our bottled mineral water. We have also created exclusive oxygen parlours where one can breathe fresh air for a price. So, as traders we are par excellence, and having corporatized the free gifts of nature, we are bleeding her to death.
 
A love for our environment cannot be created merely by introducing Environmental Education as a compulsory subject in schools. It has to become a way of life to be inculcated from infancy through the influence of family and society. Only if we could encourage our children to love and appreciate nature as much as the laptop and iPod; help them to realize the importance of trees by making them plant and nurture at least one; teach them to conserve resources by simply turning off the fan, light, tap when not in use; instill in them the dignity of labour by making them do small household chores; develop their taste buds to savour delicious but healthy food; and teach them to be sensitive by loving, sharing, and caring for others!!
 
As far as the fifth element of senses is concerned, actions and not rhetoric are needed. Only if we can change (in letter and spirit) the ‘i’ in the word happiness to ‘y’, then You will gain precedence over I, your concern will be above mine, and all will become fine with the world.
 
On this World Environment Day let us do our bit to improve the surroundings in which we are living, by being a little more loving, a shade less angry, a bit more tolerant, and a pinch less arrogant in our actions and behaviour. Coupled with this, small individual actions like tree-planting drives, community clean-ups, car-free days, outdoor nature trips, saying no to tobacco and smoking, will go a long way in making our blue planet green. (CNS)
 
Shobha Shukla - CNS
 
(The author is the Editor of Citizen News Service (CNS). She is a J2J Fellow of National Press Foundation (NPF) USA. She is also the Director of CNS Gender Initiative and CNS Diabetes Media Initiative (CNS-DMI). She has worked earlier with State Planning Institute, UP. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., website: http://www.citizen-news.org)




(CNS): As Philip Morris International (PMI) executives heralded the corporation's USD 27 billion revenues in 2010 at its annual shareholders' meeting, another not-so-welcome account of the corporation's activities was distributed to shareholders. Corporate Accountability International released a report called "Philip Morris International Exposed: Alternative Annual Report," documenting the human toll of PMI's profits and the range of tactics employed to grease the wheels for such earnings – tactics ranging from hiding behind front groups to litigation and intimidation of national governments.

"There may be 89 pages in PMI's annual report from which shareholders can judge this corporation's performance," said Gigi Kellett, Challenging Big Tobacco campaign director for Corporate Accountability International. "But to truly understand PMI's impact, you have to look at the enormous human costs it leaves off the ledger."

The report, published by Corporate Accountability International, exposes the externalized costs and corruption of the cigarette giant's business:

- Tobacco kills one person every six seconds – nearly 6 million people every year.

- On average, smokers lose 15 years of life and up to half of all smokers will die of tobacco-related causes.

- Tobacco use is leading to higher healthcare costs and lost productivity. Tobacco causes a USD 500 billion global economic drain that is equivalent to nearly USD 74 for each person in the world.

- For every dollar of PMI's revenue this year, health care expenses and productivity loss cost the world economy USD 7.39.

"The death toll is rising not only because PMI aggressively markets a deadly, addictive product, but also because PMI does everything in its power to obstruct tobacco control efforts," explained Bobby Ramakant, spokesperson for Asha Parivar in India and the Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals (NATT). "Its calculations around employing these tactics are all about dollars and cents, but the reality is that cost of the devastating effects of tobacco cannot be measured … individuals across the globe are telling PMI: it's time to stop."

 In conjunction with the report release, advocates from around the country, along with a number of nurses with The Nightingales attended the annual shareholders' meeting to directly challenge CEO Louis Camilleri and PMI for its global abuses, and to tell PMI to "Butt Out of Public Health."

The report called attention to PMI's increasing focus on expanding its markets to developing countries where the tobacco epidemic is taking the greatest toll. Big Tobacco's death toll will rise to eight million people a year by 2030 - with 80 percent of those deaths occurring in the regions it is destructively targeting.

"Those countries, large and small, that refuse to be intimidated, are emboldening others to follow their lead," said Philip Jakpor, spokesperson for Environmental Rights Action in Nigeria and NATT. "PMI has sought to thwart progress, but civil society is standing resolute against their advances."

The global tobacco treaty, entered into force in 2005, provides a roadmap for countries to tackle the tobacco epidemic through a range of tobacco controls, from comprehensive ad bans to smoke-free places. 171 countries have ratified the treaty. Its central provision also safeguards the treaty against tobacco industry interference in public health.

But as the report finds, PMI continues to flaunt the treaty by employing a range of tactics to prevent its lifesaving measures:

- Litigation: Suing for profit, bullying governments. In 2010, PMI mounted legal assaults against countries attempting to pass or implement strong tobacco control measures. The corporation targets small countries with limited resources that may be unable to singlehandedly engage in expensive legal battles, such as Uruguay and Norway.

- Circumventing advertising bans: Selling a deadly product at any cost. PMI and its subsidiaries use marketing tactics that circumvent even the strongest advertising bans and regulations. PMI clearly aims to undermine the intent of these regulations through its the sponsorship of concerts and sporting events, which are particularly attractive to youth.

- Government partnerships: Undermining public health laws. PMI lures customs agencies and other government entities into partnerships, claiming to be part of the public health solution. In 2009, PMI signed an agreement with the Colombian authorities and gave the government USD 200 million to "address issues of mutual interest." In 2010, as part of the 20 year agreement, PMI paid the Columbian government a total of USD 10.6 million.

- Front groups: Poorly disguised efforts to protect profits and influence policy. The tobacco industry often establishes entities that are funded and directed by corporations that act in the interest of industry. In Australia, tobacco corporations are bankrolling a media campaign by the Alliance of Australian Retailers to vocally oppose the government’s move to implement plain packs and to influence public and policymaker’s opinions.

Corporate Accountability International recommends that:

- PMI stop interfering in and obstructing the enactment of countries' health policies that will save lives.

- PMI honor the legally binding WHO FCTC treaty ratified by more than 170 countries.

- PMI stop manipulative marketing targeting children and youth.

- PMI stop using litigious scare tactics to intimidate countries from passing health and marketing policies.

- Governments and civil society continue to stand up to Big Tobacco and implement and enforce provisions protecting public health from industry interference. (CNS)

Report: Philip Morris International's grabbing at straws. Source: Citizen News Service (CNS) | www.citizen-news.org


Today is World No Tobacco Day (also popularly known as World Tobacco Day, and Anti Tobacco Day). It is observed worldwide on 31st May every year to encourage tobacco users to abstain from consumption of all forms of tobacco. The primary objective behind observing the day was to enlighten people about the deadly components of tobacco and its repercussions, awareness to draw people’s attention about the negative effects of tobacco.
Seminars and events on World Tobacco Day are organized by health organizations and governments while emphasizing on punch lines and pictures to persuade people to quit consuming tobacco permanently. Creating and distributing brochures, posters, fliers, press releases, websites and videos are also considered an integral part of the World No Tobacco Day. 

In our Islands too, World No Tobacco Day will be celebrated in varied ways with great zeal. DHS and local NGO’s will organize camps and events on this occasion to apprise people of early death and other ill-effects of consuming tobacco.

Consumption of Tobacco in India

• There are almost 275 million tobacco users in India.
• Over one-third of adults (age 15+) use some form of tobacco, including almost half of men (48 percent) and 20 percent of women.
• Among youth (age 13-15), 4 percent smoke cigarettes and almost 12 percent use other types of tobacco products.
• Bidis, cheap hand-rolled cigarettes, are the most popular tobacco product used in India.
• Bidis comprise 48 percent of the tobacco market, chewing tobacco 38 percent and cigarettes 14 percent.
Health consequences: India 

• About 1 million Indians die from tobacco-related diseases each year in India.
• Among youth (age 13-15), 27% are exposed to secondhand smoke at home and 40% are exposed to secondhand smoke in public places.

The Global Adult Tobacco Survey found out that 35 percent of Indian adults use tobacco in some form or the other. Most unfortunately, 35 percent adult Indians use tobacco of which, 80 percent are men and 20 percent women. Of the 35 percent, 26 percent men and women use chewing tobacco and only nine percent smoke cigarettes.
The tobacco users with cancer, 80 percent was caused by chewing tobacco while only 20 percent due to cigarette use as per the survey. The Global Adult Tobacco Survey was the "biggest ever" in India conducted in 28 states and two union territories with technical cooperation from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and full funding by the Indian health ministry.
Tobacco use and smoking are very dangerous addictions which commonly cause a wide variety of diseases, cancer and death. The vast majority of tobacco users and smokers are hooked when they are children. During this time period they are easily influenced by peer pressure and advertising. Once hooked, the majority of tobacco users become hopelessly addicted. 

More than 5 million children living today will die prematurely because of a decision they will make as adolescents---the decision to use tobacco and smoke cigarettes. Our Islands are also not so far behind in this list. Tobacco use(pan) is very common in our Islands and children starts consuming tobacco from very tender age ignoring its ill effect. A massive awareness drive is required for sensitizing people about the ill effects associated with the consumption of tobacco products. Adolescent use of smokeless tobacco is constantly on the rise, with some users starting when they are only nine or ten years old. 
World No Tobacco day is only a day, an opportunity and no different than yesterday or tomorrow, what’s important is to take a positive decision towards quitting tobacco. This decision won’t be that difficult. Lets hope for zero tobacco users in our islands.  
Reference: www.tobaccofreecenter.org  

COMPLIED BY: BENCY JOY(PHD SCHOLAR IN PSYCHOLOGY)


In 1945 the catastrophe was inflicted by the enemy. In what remains till date the most horrendous attack on human beings, over three lakhs were killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and many more continued to suffer because of radioactivity related ailments. Today it is self-inflicted catastrophe for Japan . What makes the tragedy of this most ill fated nation on earth, from the point of view of nuclear mishaps, more ironic is that it had resolved not to develop a nuclear weapon programme. The Japanese argument was that they would not like any other human population on earth to suffer the way they did in 1945 attack. In spite of this noble resolve they chose to go ahead with a big nuclear energy programme for power generation. They would have never imagined that their nuclear power plants would one day bring back the nightmares of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to haunt them.

There seems to be no end to the horror at Fukushima . The emergency crew is on the job to contain damage round the clock but new reports of radiation release pour in every day. In a ridiculous attempt to allay public fears first the Tokyo Electric Power Company reported a radiation level is water at the reactor No. 2 in Fukushima Daiichi plant to be 1 crore times higher than permissible limit causing panic among workers but later retracted it claiming it to be erroneous and conveyed the radiation levels were in fact only 1 lakh times higher! Should that be considered a cause for relief. Even one lakh times higher radiation levels can be fatal for human beings. Already radiation release from this accident has affected large parts of water, soil, food in this area and probably made it inhabitable, at least for some time to come. Already people are leaving the place as they don’t consider it safe living here.

One can only salute the emergency crew members who are trying to bring the plant under control knowing full well the dangers that their government is exposing them to. In Hiroshima and Nagasaki people had no choice as they were caught unawares. In Fukushima even though the earthquake and tsunami caught them unsuspecting, the scientists who built the nuclear power plants were well aware of the dangers involved in this technology. The Japanese government has put its population to tremendous risk by adopting the nuclear energy programme and it must accept its mistake.

Japan had seriously begun researching the renewable energy options and hopefully would over a period of time rely more on such technologies which will be safer, cleaner and cheaper to meet its energy demands. But the earthquake-tsunami came a bit too early, maybe as a warning not only to Japan but to the rest of the world too. Japan has resolved to be a low Carbon society in near future. Now it must commit itself to be no nuclear society too.

The Japanese accident has shaken the confidence of people all over in nuclear energy as never before. Countries which were toying with the idea of either starting or reviving their nuclear energy programmes are having second thoughts now. It is people’s awareness which has not allowed a single new nuclear power plant to be initiated in Europe and US for the last 25-30 years. Nuclear power plants are turning out to be the most costly and dangerous method of producing electricity. Most developed countries which have a nuclear power programme would be phasing out their nuclear power plants in the years to come.

An important reason for abdication of nuclear power programme is that scientists have not been able to solve the problem of safe disposal of radioactive waste from nuclear power plants. The spent fuel is cooled at the plant site in pools and continue to pile up. One doesn’t know what to do with a host of radioactive elements produced in the process of fission of Uranium atom. They continuously contaminate the water, soil and atmosphere in the surroundings.

The most common hazards faces by human beings due to exposure to radiation are cancer or leukemia and genetic mutation potentially affecting future generations. The high dose of radiation at the Japanese plant site may not prove to be immediately fatal to workers involved in clean up but is likely to manifest itself in the form of cancer some years later in life. They could also produce deformed babies. The people will suffer for no fault of theirs. It is the Japanese energy policy makers who will be held responsible for the resulting misery.

No government has a right to expose its innocent citizens to radiation hazards causing health risks. They should adopt benign technological options for producing electricity. People should have a role in determining the energy policy of the government. Well informed public debate must precede any such decision making.

Consider the nuclear power plant at Narora in Bulandshahar district of UP in India . It is situated on the banks of river Ganga . In 1993 there was a major fire at this nuclear power plant. It was sheer luck that this did not get out of control. If an accident of the scale which took place at Union Carbide plant in Bhopal were to happen here it which would jeopardize all life along the bank of river for much of the breadth of UP, Bihar and West Bengal and parts of Bangladesh. Depending on the direction of wind Delhi could be affected too as it is merely 50-60 km from here.

We must not play with nature. The safest place for Uranium is beneath the earth. This only naturally occurring radioactive material must not be mined. There are better ways of producing our electricity and meeting our energy demands, some of which may be fulfilled without electricity. Hence a wise and sane energy policy is required in consultation with the people.

Dr Sandeep Pandey is a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for emergent leadership (2002) and leads the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM). He did his PhD from University of California, Berkeley in control theory (used in missile technology) and taught at IIT Kanpur before plunging full-time in social activism. He is also a member of national presidium, Lok Rajniti Manch. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.