In today’s ‘Times’, it is reported that, the government in India has just imposed the world’s biggest smoking ban, “At a stroke, about 1.2 billion people will be forbidden from lighting up in bars, offices, bus stands and other public places on pain of a 200 rupee (£2.40) fine — equivalent to a day’s wages for many.”1 Whether these fines will be imposed or not is another matter. However, what is also interesting to note is that, while the 1.2 billion all won’t be smokers, India has, according to the report, 1.2 billion people. This, however, is not quite right and the figure is probably closer to 1.15 billion. Nevertheless, it does represent a massive increase since the 1991 census when India recorded some 850 million people. It also means that India is fast catching up with China as far as the population is concerned; China has approximately 1.38 billion. Whatever, we have two countries where together more than one-third of mankind live and two countries where a lot of people smoke, spit and urinate in public for as the ‘Times’ also reports, “Health experts admit that the day’s edict is likely to be flouted widely in the country, which has already outlawed spitting and urinating in public to little noticeable effect.”2
At least, we have had a series of initiatives by the Indian government. This represents a start and, perhaps, it is time for Beijing to make a similar effort. On the other hand, it might be argued that India should be concentrating on other, more important, things, such as, increasing the literacy rate in the country and spending less on its military and more on education. Moreover, China, a country that has just spent up to $45 billion on the Olympics3, while about 65% of its population just about manage to eek out a living, certainly has more important things to concentrate on as the recent milk scandal shows us.4 It is good that ‘Uncle Sam’ might no longer be allowed to act unilaterally and trample on human rights all over the planet and it is to be welcomed when no one country can dictate to the rest of us. Unfortunately, while China and India are in the process of becoming global players and will probably be expected to share in decisions that affect the planet as a whole, I am skeptical of their ability to take on the responsibility and not just because a lot of their citizens chain smoke and spit and piss on the street.
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