With a sudden wake in conscience, Amrita Bahri, the president of DUSU, has decided to launch an anti-smoking campaign in the North Campus area of the Delhi University. Just a few days ago, in their efforts to push for a “tobacco free campus”, the police along with some student volunteers commenced a drive banning smoking in campus. They tried to tackle this issue by penalizing students who were caught in the “act”. However, the complete ban will be effective from 15th February, following which, the students will not be allowed to smoke in the North Campus area and any sale of tobacco products within 100 meters will be prohibited. With the Vice Chancellor of DU, Deepak Pental and the Delhi police supporting this campaign, students will have no place to turn to. Although, Amrita Bahri has been extremely kind and considerate, according to the reports, she has given students precisely 15 days to “voluntarily give up” their habit.
I will now to come to the point that I am trying to make. The fact is that I do not smoke, and being perturbed with this decision, it may seem a bit astonishing, but I urge my readers to understand the logic behind, which has made me reach this conclusion. North Campus area of the DU is definitely a paradise for smokers with the number of non-smokers being in minority. So putting a ban in place makes sense, right? I beg to differ.
One should understand the fact that cigarettes are an inelastic commodity (this means that their consumption does not change much with a large change in its prices). Students cannot suddenly discontinue this habit at the drop of a hat. A ban in place will give way to a black market or should I say hideouts, where sale and consumption of tobacco products will take place. This is because I feel that students will not accept the ban. So what DUSU has actually done is that they have given the Police a reason to harass students unnecessarily.
Rather than imposing bans, the DUSU should educate students about the ill effects of smoking, employ counsellors and put up banners and posters for the same gradually driving out this habit amongst the students. A very steady process should be adopted which can discourage students from smoking thereby reducing the overall demand for these products. Looking at the reaction of the students, one can clearly infer that this campaign is going to fail for the simple reason that penalizing and forcing students is not a way out. Convincing students on moralistic grounds would have made more sense instead of taking the easier way out by banning smoking. Making haste decisions on such topics is not wise, however it is indeed something that Amrita Bahri seems to have mastered in the past few months. I don’t have a problem with the idea of a non smoking campus per se; I have a problem with its implementation. It’s really sad to see such a good cause being executed in such an appalling way that it defeats its own purpose. I don’t really think Amrita Bahri has taken note of the rebellious nature of the youth before taking such a decision.
One may also wonder why Congress-backed NSUI is making such a huge deal about this anti-smoking campaign, when some members of the Congress strongly opposed the Union Health Minister, Anbumani Ramadoss’ decision to print skulls on cigarette packets just a few months ago. No wonder, working in contradictions is the “only thing” NSUI is good at.
This campaign, too, seems politically motivated and there is no denying the fact that it has brought NSUI a lot of publicity in the past few days, but they shouldn’t forget that these are the very students who will vote and elect the Students Union next year. So why does this decision taken by Amrita Bahri looks as if it is one step ahead but actually two steps behind?
Samarjit Singh Khanna