Dr Anbumani Ramadoss is an extremely fit and healthy man. And as is wont with fit and healthy men, they want everyone around them to be fit and healthy. Nothing wrong with that. But like Mahatma Gandhi, our Health Minister isn’t very understanding about the shortcomings of his fellow men who might not be too fit and healthy. In fact, Mr Ramadoss downright despises people who ruin their bodies by indulging in that disgusting, leprous habit: smoking. So in a fit of extreme righteousness, the minister is now reportedly planning yet another cut and thrust in his ongoing duel with smokers in this country. Mr Ramadoss, sensing that not enough is done to dissuade employees to give up that nicotine addiction, wants organisations to be fined for allowing their workers to smoke inside their premises. This is wriggling deeper into the smoky zone of cigarette smokers with the next stop perhaps being in the bathrooms of people’s houses.
The dear minister obviously is doing all this out of love. After all, he probably has sleepless nights thinking about the countless people who chug away, burning nice, healthy pink tissues inside their lungs. Only if Mr Ramadoss was a minister in Europe or in America, where smoking has become such a mainstream social taboo that the State has to do little to dissuade the habit — even as it allows tobacco company sponsorships and advertisements hand in hand with the message of ‘Smoking Kills’ in large print on cigarette packets. In India, alas, smoking is yet to be equated with a pariah habit. Thus, this cunning plan to rap the knuckles of the organisation where the despicable smoker might be smoking surreptitiously. In other words, companies will, if the plan goes through, think twice about hiring people who smoke. Or at least, put smoking down in the ‘liabilities’ section of the employee’s HRD file.
One employee-cum-employer whom Mr Ramadoss immediately wants to win over in his scheme of things is the West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. The smoking CM, one of the few public figures in this country who actually puffs on his stick in public, has responded by saying that for all of Baba Ramadoss’s unsubtle pleadings, he’s going to keep his ashtray in his office in the state secretariat and use it come hail come ciggy police. Which makes us humble employees of our very own company worry about the very ‘short breaks’ that some of us do take while on a writing mission. What happens if according to the new rule, we are caught and fired without having finished our.