NAZIS IN DELHI

Indians, I have long worried, have a strong tendency to be against individual freedom. In the past, many assaults on liberties have taken place, some even enshrined in the Constitution.
Today I learned that Delhi University, including its Student Union, has banned smoking within its campus. Students will not be allowed to smoke in colleges, and on roads or anywhere else. Anyone caught smoking will be considered to be breaking the law, and fined. I suspect the laws also have imprisonment as one of the consequences for repeat offenders, but am not sure about that.

2007-09-03t021508z_01_nootr_rtridsp_2_health-dementia-smokers-dc.jpg

I was taken aback at the virulence on the faces of some of the students campaigning for the ban. It seemed that all of their life’s problems would be over once smoking got banned. There were hardly a couple of feeble voices crying out for individual liberty and freedom.

Of course, I have discussed the issue of non-smokers’ rights in the past, maintaining that only the owner of a private property can declare his area off-limits for smoking. Otherwise, in public places, there have to be designated areas for smokers.

In this case, students are going to learn early in life the importance of cheating, of concealing truth, and bribing as a way of ensuring their self-interest. The police will benefit financially, of course, as will the media, with new stories to cover.

I can only wail at yet another bastion of individual freedom falling to the continuous onslaught of the control freaks, the Nazis of Correctness. Smokers are the new Jews.

The use of force to implement what is construed as the public good characterises every stormtrooper of righteous intent.

(pic credit: http://www.nyu.edu/socialwork/ip/news/archives/2007)

31 responses to “NAZIS IN DELHI

  1. Smoking got banned on-campus of my undergrad college in Pune a very long time back- somewhere in 2002. And believe it, it has nothing to do with ending other students’ life’s problems. Pune has the highest % of female smokers in India. Before smoking was banned on campus, I always used to find big groups of students loitering around, smoking and engaging in eye-warming activities. The ambiance of the college changed for the better after this move was taken. Definitely enforced more professionalism.

    Having a designated area on campus can work, but I don’t know how it’ll work in India or Delhi Univ. as a matter of fact. Enforcing such a rule will also require the employment of a “Cigarette police” who will make sure that the students stay in designated areas and this doesn’t seem like a practical idea from the point of view of enforcement.

    Here, in the US, smoking is allowed on campus, as long as it’s 50 feet away each building. Of course, smoking can’t be banned here because the campus is huge and most of the people drive for classes. Banning smoking would mean that students will have to leave campus by car, have a smoke, and then come back, which doesn’t make sense because of the sheer size of the campuses.

  2. Woe it is because an individual’s right is going up in smoke!

  3. I dont smoke and I dont like the smell of smoke, and hence look to avoid it. However, I am also always a bit shocked, and disturbed by the downright contempt some of my progressive thinking (read liberal) colleagues show towards smokers. It is downright prejudicial – basically the underlying sentiment is “these smokers are somehow beneath us and deserve every bit of contempt and heavy-handedness so that they give up this vile thing”. Try to tell them – while smoking is indeed bad, maybe these smokers at this point dont have much control, and so giving them contempt maybe doesnt really help. The response “Who asked them to get tempted and addicted in the first place? They are idiots to get addicted and thus deserve zero sympathy ” – You can smell the pride that they are “above such addictions, above such weaknesses”.

    Now I believe that their rationale is “second-hand smoke causes harm to others besides yourselves, and so your individual right is trumped. You of course have the right to cause yourself harm, but when you are harming others in the process, you got no right”.

    I sort of see this too (unless this second hand smoking is overblown big time – which I do suspect). But I am still bothered by the attitude.

  4. Usually it’s the comments that invoke Godwin’s Law. It’s interesting that the post itself started with it. 😉

  5. Amit:
    I plead marginally guilty of hyperbole, like a Harbhajan Singh.
    Please note that the validity of an argument is also undermined by invoking this Law.
    Arun:
    I appreciate that, but the point to define is ‘who owns the space?’ If it is private, then the owner has the right to specify whether to allow smoking or not, and if it is public, then the rights of non-smokers have to be taken into consideration, too. But banning smoking?!?
    Ruhi:
    In the US, banning smoking will probably be deemed unconstitutional. In a perfect world, no one would smoke, and birds would sing in the trees while boys and girls romance in college, but in the earth that we inhabit, there are people who do things many do not like. However, one cannot banish those one doesn’t like. Smokers, too, must be given the respect and right that all of us take for granted.

  6. Smoking is an activity that affects other people. It infringes on other people’s right to not breathe in second hand smoke.

    The individual’s right to smoke is protected by allowing smoking to be legal. The public’s right to not be bothered by smokers is preserved by banning it in public places.

    By your argument, drug abusers would have the right to continue to abuse those substances. Why have Governments declared them illegal?

  7. Oye! smokers are the new jews – isn’t that a bit of an overstatement Doc? I mean I’m not expecting a genocide… although.. this happened in India right?

    Here smoking is not allowed in most public spaces and increasingly more restaurants are putting a total ban on smoking. As an occasional smoker I don’t mind that, I can imagine that it’s annoying, smelly etc .

    However choice is a nice thing to have and to cherish. I know of a story in a rather conservative area where during ramadan a boy tried to eat a banana but never got the chance to finish it. Knowing that not everybody has the same sense of sanity I wonder what a gleefull face and a cigarette could evoke.

  8. RDoc: I don’t agree with you here. Then why not let people dope in colleges too?

  9. Ruhi, Marc:
    Doping in college?! Hmmn.
    I am not sure we are dealing with similar issues insofar as others’ rights are concerned.
    However, I reiterate what I said: a privately owned school or college would be within its rights to disallow doping/alcohol/smoking, etc. If you don’t like it, don’t go there!
    However, a PUBLIC institution should not ban anything that is part of an individual’s choice. That includes smoking, doping, alcohol intake, as long as it is done outside the university buildings, and where non-participants are also protected.
    Look, banning anything doesn’t push it beyond reach. In India, grass is available easily, but do you think drug addiction is more here because of this? In the same way, in a college, as long as students realise that doping in private is okay, but that they would lose their seats if it affected their academic performance (or if they violate others’ rights), it would be perfectly logical.
    So, the answer to your points is: YES, doping should be fine, too, but with the above-mentioned provisos (and then some).

    Purnima:
    Yes, I was exaggerating, but the righteousness and force in view (amongst those campaigning for it in Delhi) made me think of it.

  10. RDoc:

    and where non-participants are also protected.

    Are you sure you don’t agree with me? This is exactly what I’d said earlier- allow others to smoke as long as others don’t get affected. BUT it’s not easy to employ police who would “protect other non-participants”.

  11. The problem is a little too complicated, I think, to solve by providing for designated areas where the activities of one or more individuals wouldn’t interfere with the rights of others. Here, the activity is not restricted to only smoking, drugs, or alcohol.

    For an alternative, less emotion-laden (?) issue, consider a band that would like to play acid rock in a quadrangle, where others would be studying, love-making, or whatever. Simple! Construct a sound-proof building for the band in a corner of the quadrangle, right? Now, what if another band wanted to play Bollywood music? Another sound-proof glass building?

    Who should bear the cost of building these little islands and policing them? Each of these sub-groups or the public? Why should I, who have nothing to do with any of these fellows’ pleasures and pains, bear any part of the cost?

    The problem is not smoking or doping in public property, but public property!

  12. Any kind of extremism sends alarm bells ringing in my mind. It also makes the motives of those campaigning for anything suspect. Are they really worried about second-hand smoke, like in this instance? Or are they enjoying the power they wield?

  13. Vivek Khadpekar

    RF,

    Isn’t the concept of public property rather dated in these glorious days of market forces dominating all aspects of life? Of course things were not much better under socialism (vide the Neta Necropolis along the Yamuna in Delhi). But at least the places were genuinely public.

    Now, I supose, no one would find anything wrong if the Rajghat were rented out for a rock show, or the Rashtrapati Bhavan as a venue for the wedding of the daughter of the next big captain of commerce.

  14. TRF:
    The problem is not that complicated, as it would involve the use of these spaces within existing premises that the institutions would be able to utilise/invest. The use of common sense and rationality is not unprecedented, like in a gym, for example.
    Nita:
    You are right there. It is using power to implement what one wants, irrespective of others’ rights.
    Vivek:
    Yes, the government is more avaricious for money than even the corporations!

  15. rambodoc:

    The problem is not that complicated, as it would involve the use of these spaces within existing premises that the institutions would be able to utilise/invest.

    What if there were conflicting claims on these assets/spaces, such as between thee acid rock, the Bollywood, and secret lovers? What rules, who’d make them, and on what grounds? “Commonsense” is too vague.

  16. Ain’t the smoke coming out of the vehicles causing more harm to the lungs of these righteous human beings…..why not go back to horse carriages and bullock carts..!!
    People enjoy terrorizing other people..just find a seemingly righteous reason like ….u kiss in public places , u r spoiling the moral and cultural fabric of this society..u smoke in public places and harm other people…. start a campaign and entertain themself..sadistic pleasure..am sure these type of people come under some horrible sicko category in the science of human mind.

  17. How do you ‘protect the nonparticipants’ doc? They won’t carry the smoke with them. Passive smoking is as bad as smoking itself. The number of asthma patients in Delhi are increasing. The whole idea of introducing CNG on Delhi roads was to cut down air pollution.
    //Ain’t the smoke coming out of the vehicles causing more harm to the lungs of these righteous human beings…..why not go back to horse carriages and bullock carts..!!// Geetha how can you compare the two? There are benefits of motorised vehicles, how is smoking beneficial to anybody including the smoker himself.
    I wouldn’t mind people kissing in public if the people kissing on roads are prepared to kiss in the presence of their parents and kids.

  18. “Indians, I have long worried, have a strong tendency to be against individual freedom.”

    Does it apply as much to the citizens as the law enforcers that they wait for a law on something to act responsibly and is there a vicious circle in operation? How many times have their been vociferous protests against curbing of individual freedom?

  19. Vivek Khadpekar

    pr3rna,

    //I wouldn’t mind people kissing in public if the people kissing on roads are prepared to kiss in the presence of their parents and kids.//

    Why such a proviso? How does it concern you anyway, unless you are yourself one of these guardians of public morality?

  20. @ R-Doc: Hate to go technical on you but the most Delhi University can do is make RULES. Not enact LAWS, as your post suggests. The reason why courts exist is because Laws are amenable to interpretation and hence there is a degree of negotiation possible. Rules can only be broken for which there would be penalties, fines or any other punitive measures.

    When students sign up to a Uni, they agree to a wide range of rules and regulations in the fine print – including not plagiarising, but you wouldn’t know! – violating which is likely to result in suspension or dismissal, amongst other possibilities.

    The world is indeed free. The students are free to go and study somewhere else if they do not like the rules of a University.

    Just before you start a war of words with me on your own blog, I should like to place on record that despite having no sympathy with smokers, when my college moved to ban smoking in the college bar, the only place where people could smoke, including way before the smoking ban came into force in different parts of the UK, I fought on the side of smokers. The logic is simple – if you do not allow them to smoke somewhere, they will smoke outside causing even more hapless passers-by to inhale their smoke than they might otherwise do.

    I am reminded of a Guru Nanak story about good and bad villagers, but too long to type here.

    @ Ruhi: Re smoking dope, I think you must be at a very virtuous college! One guy who was at IIMA during my time suspended for smoking pot. Nearly everyone (note – exceptions) I know, who ever attended an IIT or a Med School in India, has smoked pot. A guy in Boston made an entire business supplying pizzas and chocolates to people who get munchies after smoking pot. And I am not implying the scientists were smoking anything but the whole basis of Sanofi’s Rimonabant anti-obesity drug is the blocking of cannabinoid receptors, the same ones that cause munchies.

    In any case, all this is no different from under-age drinking in US campuses too. Now don’t tell me there was none of that on your campus 😉

  21. Smoking in public places is illegal in kerala (I am not sure about the rest of the country), the police could fine a min of 100Rs. (Cigarette shops had the signs “Please don’t ask for matchbox”… Once the law was passed, the police was on a spree to catch offenders, 5 months down the lane, you can see many smokers in public… the police doesn’t seem to care now.

    So I think that would be a example for Delhi University students, wait for a few months, people will forget about it and you can smoke in public again!!!!

  22. Shefaly:
    As far as going to another University is concerned, the argument does not apply because DU is not a private, but a public institute. The public is a stakeholder on account of the State funding, and hence, may ask “Why should we go anywhere else?”
    I am an on-off kind of smoker, and I hate the smell of smoke, but that doesn’t stop me from respecting smokers’ rights.
    Geetha:
    Thanks for your comments. Welcome!
    Xylene: One of the reasons why irrational laws (sorry, rules) subvert the very institution of the law itself. Welcome to this blog!
    Usha: I am sure you agree that the Indian concept of rights is very, very weird! As such, the genuine violations often meet with popular sanction.

  23. Vivek Khadpekar

    Doc,

    //…the Indian concept of rights is very, very weird! As such, the genuine violations often meet with popular sanction.//

    You’re bang on! Especially true in matters of noise pollution.

  24. Vivek Khadpekar,
    //How does it concern you anyway//
    I am talking about double standards Vivek. I am not a guardian of public morality but I do believe what is right for my family is right for everybody else. I am not sure how many smokers would be prepared to smoke with their toddlers and pregnant wives sitting near them. I have seen people going out in the open to smoke when their kids are near them, where as in a public place or a park or a restaraunt if there are kids around they don’t seem to mind.
    About kissing if somebody has reservations about kissing in the presence of his own kids or parents he might give it a thought that other kids are impressionable too. This depends on the kissers opinion not mine. If he thinks it is ok one way, it is ok in the second case also. I am talking about double standards.

  25. R-Doc: I notice you side-step the technical issue… 😉

    A “public institution” is not the same as a “public good”. Otherwise the DU would have to admit every moron – they do admit some – without, for instance, taking their academic performance into account. Your logic would make sure that every person in Delhi is at least enrolled as a student in DU. Doesn’t work like that, does it?

    I have a father who smoked for a good 45-50 years. I have broken many cigarettes as a child, because I did not want him to die prematurely. When I lived in India, I had so many smoker friends, that I had a room where they could shut the door, open the window and smoke. Many of them, now fathers, have quit of their own accord because they do not want their children to be subjected to their second hand smoke. So it is not about individual attitudes to smoking, it is about the issue as a whole.

    It is not also about smokers’ rights. It is whose rights they trample on and more importantly, about smokers’ responsibilities. All rights come with responsibilities is the key thing missing in most people’s psyches and one does not have to be Spiderman to understand that (with great power comes great responsibility).

    And I can assure you that is not an Indian phenomenon either. You have of course heard of the 2nd amendment to the US constitution. Its narrow interpretation by the average (below-average perhaps?) American is dangerously odd. One may have one grey cell amongst a family of 5 but by God, they will all have more than 1 gun.

  26. Shefaly, there’s rational thinking and then there’s reasonable thinking. Oft, the two are confused. 🙂

    rambodoc, I didn’t know you were a member of the smokers’ collective. The post takes on a different meaning in the light of that disclosure. 😉

  27. Shefaly:
    I sidestepped the issue because of lack of time (as on many other occasions with other comments here and in other blogs)! 🙂
    I have to find out how the Delhi Police is involved in this if it is the DU’s rules, rather than a law. You are right.
    Amit:
    That’s ridiculous! I have defended (and will do so all the time) whores, drug peddlars, drug-abusing sportsmen, artists, etc…. having been none of the above! 😉
    And, BTW, I don’t consider myself as a smoker. I am mostly off it (have been all my life). Sometimes, I go into phases of intense lighting up, only to quit a few days or weeks later.

  28. rambodoc, I was pulling your leg. 😉

  29. @ Amit: R-Doc knows quitting non-smoking is easy; he has done it many times 😉

    @ R-Doc: Yes, I know. The fact that the police are involved in all this suggests altogether a different problem.

  30. radicalhypocrite

    Ah Doc, I dropped in late but you seem to have stirred up (what is it called) the anti-smokers nest….

    Agree with you 100% that second-hand smoking is overblown big.

    Smoking is chemical dependency, but so is life after an age (is it, doc?). People and more importantly public morality shapers have a tendency of forgetting this when attacking smokers. 😦

    As a chain smoker, I’m always conscious of the people around me, but then, have always been on the receiving end.

    And let me tell you how bad I feel every time I am forced to add to nonji -and-anti ji smokers’ nausea by smoking miles away from them.

    Or at times when they really sense my absent presence intermingled with varied smells inside the railway loo-cages, where people invariably forget to flush and I get to inhale a lot of their absent presences as well, just because I can’t smoke by the door and hand out Rs.200 everytime to every passing RPF. And let’s not talk about the nightmarish wait at airport terminals, it all goes up in imagined smoke.

    The use of force to implement what is construed as the public good characterises every stormtrooper of righteous intent.

    Thanks for that, Doc. Wonderfully put and it speaks my heart.

  31. Thanks, RH, nice comments that won’t go up in smoke anytime soon!
    🙂

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