Delhi State Tobacco control cell, Govt of Delhi failed to implement Tobacco Free Election initiative during current Lok Sabha Election on 12th May 2019. This is really surprising because this was the initiative of Delhi State Tobacco control cell for the whole country.
It’s worth mentioning that after successfully conducting the 1st Tobacco Free Election of the country during MCD Elections in April 2017, Dr S K Arora, Addl. Director Health with Govt of Delhi, in October 2018 in the capacity of head of Delhi State Tobacco control cell wrote to Election Commission of India to declare the coming Lok sabha Elections 2019 as Tobacco free in whole country in larger public health interest because it is an excellent opportunity to sensitize the whole adult population of country in a single day on ill effects of tobaccos & to tackle the menace of tobaccos in the country. Election Commission of India agreed to the request of Dr Arora & issued instructions to all States for it’s implementation. All the guidelines suggested by Dr Arora for it’s implementation & monitoring were also accepted in toto & shared to all States including Delhi.
Following guidelines were issued to be followed :
1. Banner of Tobacco free Election at the gate of school & also at each polling booth inside the school with Health message along with message on ill effects of tobaccos. Design of Banner was also shared.
2. Presiding officer of booth is the nodal officer for ensuring Tobacco free status in & out of booth within school.
3. No body should smoke or use chewable tobaccos at premises.
4. State cell & Distt health teams will implement & monitor to ensure all these.
But when our team went around several polling stations we couldn’t find any such banner or presence of any health team at any pace on 12th May during lok sabha Elections in Delhi. When we asked polling station staff at several place they said Health deptt has not provided any banner & we have not seen any health personnel sensitizing people on ill effects of tobaccos.
This is really shocking that Delhi Health Deptt failed to implement it’s own initiative of public health interest.
When our team approached Dr Ashok Kumar, DGHS of Delhi Govt, he categorically denied having received any such instructions from Election Commission. He further said that if we are asked to do so in future we will follow. Pr.secy (H &FW), GNCTD Mr Sanjeev Khirwar couldn’t be contacted inspite of repeated requests in last few days as he was busy in meeting every time as per communication of his PA. When Dr S K Arora, who was earlier heading this program, was contacted, to know the reasons for failure, he refused to give any comment but he accepted that Election Commission had issued instructions for Tobacco free Election as per his request & by not implementing Delhi has lost an opportunity to sensitize around 86 lakh Adult population of Delhi on this very important public Health
It’s worth mentioning that Tobacco is killing around 13 lakh people in India every year.