Every third person in India is a youth. By 2020, the average individual in the county will be 29 years old, making India the youngest country in the world. India is set to become the world’s youngest country with 64 percent of the population in the working age group.

In India, the average age of starting tobacco use is 15 years, according to the GATS – India 2010 report. According to a UN survey in 2004, the age of first users was 16 years. Reports indicate that now the age has dropped.

The latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report shows that in 2012 juveniles were involved in 1,175 rape cases across India as compared to 531 in 2002. For the same period, their involvement in murder cases increased from 531 to 990 and in theft from 3,361 to 5,528.

The formulation of the Indian alcohol policy is underway. I think it’s important to make clear that Article 47 of the Constitution of India is ever more relevant today in this market driven society.

“Directive Principles of State Policy directs the State to regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties, and, in particular, to endeavor to bring about prohibition of consumption…”

Dr Margaret Chan Director-General of the World Health Organization emphasized that market power readily translates into political power. Few governments prioritize health over big business. As we learned from experience with the tobacco industry, a powerful corporation can sell the public just about anything.

Today, getting people to lead healthy lifestyles and adopt healthy behaviors faces opposition from forces that are not so friendly. Not at all.”

I have recently reflected on this issue in a panel discussion together with law enforcing agencies on Lok Sabha Television on the occasion of this year’s International Day Against Drug Abuse:

Can we just leave everything to the Young People?

If students are caught with cigarettes or alcohol, heroin etc., in the absence of proper substance abuse policies in schools, it is expedite to deal with substance abusers by expelling them from school. The tragedy is that the issues of substance use in school are put under the carpet and talking about alcohol and other drugs is considered as a taboo both in the schools and at homes.

Recently, President of India Pranab Mukherjee called for instilling social values in young minds. It’s a good piece of advice that comes from the first citizen.

Bollywood stars endorse and Bollywood films glorify alcohol where the good guys use alcohol. We can not absolve teachers, sports persons, doctors and leaders themselves indulging in such risky behavior. Many celebrities who champion the cause of individual liberty and free choice have a hidden market agenda. As the President observed we need to inculcate the positive social values in the young minds to make “Young India a Healthy India”.

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