India’s miseries during the recent Australian tour do not seem to be confined to the team’s disastrous performance on the cricket field. The Indian high commission there now finds itself embroiled in a controversy related to advertisement boards put up at stadiums by an Indian brand that sells tobacco products back home.
The Indian high commission in Canberra, however, maintained that it had no role in the matter and was merely asked to provide the English translation for the terms — Kamla Pasand, Mehak Chaini, and Chaini mouth freshener.
In response to an RTI query by activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, the high commission replied: “A request was received from a company on December 14, 2012, requesting the translation from Hindi to English of a term on an artwork prepared by them.”
The reply further stated: “The high commission did not make any assertion whatsoever on the product per se. Only a literal translation was rendered.”
The high commission’s reply about a literal translation — Kamla’s liking, fragrant chaini and chaini mouth freshener — has not gone down well with Australian organisations fighting against tobacco advertisements.In a letter to the high commission, leading anti-tobacco organisation Action on Smoking and Health pointed out that it was impossible to accept the argument that the high commission was not aware of the brand's large-scale tobacco operations in India.
The Indian high commission, in response, stated: “At no stage did the company concerned let the ostensible objective of these artworks make known to the high commission… We share the concern of all those who highlight the ill-effects of tobacco-related diseases.”
Following a complaint from the organisation, the Australian government has launched an investigation into how its cricket board allowed the advertisement to be put up near the boundary line.
All forms of tobacco advertising have been banned in Australia since 1992. If the health department investigation finds Cricket Australia guilty of contravening a strict ban on tobacco advertising, a heavy penalty could be imposed.
The Australian cricket board, however, has gone public saying it had withdrawn the advertisement following objections, and got it back only after the company produced a translated version from the Indian high commission.