Sunday Levity: Statutory Warnings

Bollywood, public policy and the defence of the common good

How the Indian government protects its citizens

Dragged into a cushy multiplex in one of Bangalore’s swanky new malls didn’t fully erase the grave misgivings which precede the watching of a Hindi film, even one starring Aamir Khan.

Even before the customary ‘Smoking is harmful’ and ‘In case of fire use the EXIT’ stills, the powers that be in India decided to screen a short infomercial, the theme of which was ‘Terrorism is a dead-end career option’. The shalwar-clad terrorist runs out of bullets, is abandoned by his handler and dreams a prodigal son’s dream before being cleanly finished off by the Army sniper. Nice message. It would seem though, that terrorism, like smoking, drugs, AIDS and — if India’s health minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss has his way — even soft drinks, can be countered by consumer education. The next step may be to decree that all firearms come with a statutory warning, like cigarettes, stating in a print of a certain minimum size, that terrorists will meet a terrible fate.

As for Dr Ramadoss, he recently excoriated film stars and cricketing icons for endorsing soft-drinks, which as everyone knows, are a grave threat to public health in India. The Health Minister must be applauded for this move — for he knows that while soft-drinks themselves may be relatively harmless, the average urban Indian inhales dangerously high levels of poisonous chemicals on his way to the soft drink store. Fewer trips to buy soft drinks also mean fewer traffic accidents. The next step will be to prevent film stars and cricketing icons from endorsing motorcycles, engine lubricants and ultimately, all automobiles. For, as everyone knows, automobiles cause traffic accidents that claim lives.

Film stars and cricketing icons need not worry about lost endorsement revenue — the Government of India can employ them to make more infomercials.

As for those grave misgivings, they were erased even before the movie began — thanks to Yella OK, Cold Drink Yaake?. (But Dr Ramadoss will not be impressed at all)

4 thoughts on “Sunday Levity: Statutory Warnings”

  1. Nitin,

    I get it.

    Smoking bad, therefore to be shunned.

    However murder, rape and violence is perfectly all right.

    Is this Ram-a-doss an idiot or what!


  2. Several friends of mine that are doctors and nutritionists, and others who’ve researched this, have pointed out sugary aerated drinks are one of the primary culprits in America’s obesity/ diabetes problem.

    Even before then, I’ve regarded aerated drinks with anathema — and probably have one drink every year 😉 just don’t like that sugar. All this in the interests of full disclosure.

    However, I consider myself a semi-libertarian — and am all for letting celebs endorse what they want.

    Q) Given all this, what advice would one give Ramadoss?

  3. Prashant,

    There is no doubt that excessive consumption of soft drinks is detrimental to health. But even without getting into the libertarian perspective, it is reasonable to conclude that the threat from soft drink consumption is not the greatest of India’s public health concerns. The government has a finite amount of financial and management resources, and these are best deployed tackling the biggest problems.

    Focussing on high-profile low-importance issues is a red herring that distracts attention from the real dangers.

    The best advice for Dr Ramadoss is for him to list down the worst problems in order of importance and for him to take a personal interest in solving the top three.

  4. “The best advice for Dr Ramadoss is for him to list down the worst problems in order of importance and for him to take a personal interest in solving the top three.”

    Nitin, you make too much sense. You must not be Indian 🙂

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