The world is talking of ‘modernization’. As Indians, we speak about the western culture and make every possible endeavor to infuse the same in our day to day lives. Ranging from clothing and way of speech to our food selection and social dealings, a newer India has come up with an altogether distinct approach towards culture, patriotism, and ethical values. Why do I see most of the youngsters of my locality at the corner shop that vends cigarettes and chewing tobacco? The answer isn’t tricky. Cigarette sticks, a canister of beer, harmful drugs, X-rated pictures, and loud music have today evolved as a symbol of our so-called westernization. And those who do not fall in the category are looked upon as persons carrying worn out outlook towards life.
You cannot find any good reason as to why a person should prefer smoking. Then why have more than 110 million people of our country accepted one of the most hazardous health risks, smoking, as a part of their lives? The next fact will shock you. India is home to more than 12 million women smokers, which means that we stand almost at the top with respect to female smokers just a step down to the U.S. As from the October 2nd 2008, smoking at public places is forbidden. And why did the law-makers not consider ‘roads’ and ‘streets’ as public places is a hard question to answer. Nevertheless, even places covered under ‘public place’ for instance bus stands, airports, and parks are not absolutely smoke-free owing to our lazy law-protectors.
A recent report reveals how India witnessed a threefold rise in the number of male teenagers consuming alcohol. Despite knowing the age of the customer, bars and hotels serve unlimited glasses of wine just to make earnings. And fallen into the trap are the teenagers who are vastly motivated by songs, advertisements, and of course the ongoing trend. In India, legal age for alcohol consumption varies from state to state. For instance, this is 18 years in Goa, U.P. and Pondicherry; 21 in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh; and 25 in Delhi, Haryana and Punjab. This distinction is beyond understanding since harms of alcohol are the same for every person.
Next, the Public Gambling Act, 1867 prohibits in India the running or being in charge of any public gaming house. Even the Information Technology Act, 2000 forbids online gambling; yet it has been reported that more than 40 percent of internet users in India have visited a website hosting gambling. Instances of betting on games of cricket and even polls are not unknown. A vital fact here is that two Indian states, Goa and Sikkim allow casinos to operate. Something that I am worried about is the news which reoccurs every other day saying how a person lost his hard-earned money, reputation, and many a times even a female of the house due to gambling loss. Let me tell you that Indian gambling market is valued to be worth USD 60 billion per year.
The vending of adult magazines outside the railway stations and bus stands is now taken over by a hefty pornography market in India, which operates physically via supply of porn CDs, and also through the online platform. It is now not rare to see a youngster’s cellphone loaded with X-rated pictures and videos. It is substantial to note that The Information Technology Act, 2000 very obviously states that online pornography is a punishable offense in India. However, the Directorate of Telecommunications has stated that due to technological and other reasons blocking of porn websites is not possible. Why the internet service providers are not directed to take actions to ban such webpages from being accessible to users is beyond understanding.
Of all the above-mentioned evils, you cannot say which one is the most detrimental. Neither our social nor our economic and cultural values back any of these vices. To make more and more revenue, the governments too, do not disturb the free flowing of cigarettes and alcoholic drinks. How Gujarat managed to fetch sustainable growth despite of prohibition on alcohol is a lesson many states need to learn. Also, uneven laws as to the legal age for alcohol consumption and open contravention of law pertaining to smoking in public places are the subject matters that demand sincere attention of union as well the state governments. Indeed, our excessive version of westernization needs a solemn thought with a view to safekeeping Indian values and culture.