Taking serious note of the conflict of interest apparent in the membership of Shyama Charan Gupta, a beedi baron on a parliamentary health committee, PM Narendra Modi has asked Health Minister JP Nadda to enforce bigger pictorial warnings on beedi and cigarette packets. The Committe on Subordinate Legislation was to decide on raising the size of graphics on tobacco product packaging to 85% of the packet size. But the government now wants the graphics size to cover 60-65 per cent of a cigarette packets in a clear compromoise move in view of the tobacco lobby.
This development comes after the parliamentary committee sought to delay the move, saying that there was no local evidence that smoking causes cancer. The committee, which had some members with a clear conflict of interest, was of the view that there were no credible Indian studies to correlate smoking and cancer. A BJP lawmaker SC Gupta, a Beedi baron, compared tobacco to sugar, and said that sugar was not banned despite causing diabetes.
While taking a strong note of the committee's views, Modi has said that people with a conflict of interest in matters under their review shouldn't serve on parliamentary committees. According to the government, some 9 lakh people die of cancer in India annually due to tobacco consumption.