An innovative advocacy tool – the Student’s Parliament On Health, was organized by HRIDAY in 2001 at New Delhi. The education process involved emulating eminent adult role models (Parliamentarians). Individual students were assigned specific roles of Parliamentarians and Ministers. The aim was to place the students in apposition of responsibility and decision making; develop leadership skills among youth; catalyze informed health activism; familiarize students with the procedural aspects of parliamentary functioning and enable them to engage in advocacy of health issues.
The widely acclaimed success of this strategy, brought an extension of this advocacy tool, to other parts of India, with an encouraging support from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the World Health Organisation. Consequently, an ‘All India Student’s Parliament on Health’ was organized to mobilise school students of 10 cities in India for youth advocacy on tobacco control and other health related issues.
Advocacy Efforts in support of the Indian Tobacco Control Bill in 2003
HRIDAY in Delhi took the lead in organizing advocacy campaigns to support the passage of “Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution)” Bill, in the Parliament in April 2003. Under the guiding lamp of HRIDAY, students assured their support for successful implementation of the Tobacco Control Act. They also assured that they will work to generate further media interest on the issue.
Advocacy Efforts in support of the Indian Tobacco Control Bill in 2004-05
- Ensuring early notification of all rules under the Act- Signature campaign to support health warnings on tobacco packs, 2004: HRIDAY collaborated with PATH-Canada (now called Health Bridge) to organize an advocacy campaign, to push the government to notify rules related to pictorial health warnings on tobacco product packages, as prescribed in the Act. Youth advocates presented postcards bearing suggested pictorial health warnings on tobacco related diseases to the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, along with signatures from 20,000 school students requesting for early notification of rules pertaining to this provision in the Indian Tobacco Control Act, 2003.
- Youth led advocacy campaigns in support of Ministry of Health’s decision to ban depiction of tobacco use in Indian films and tele-serials, 2005: As the MOHFW decided to expand the scope of the regulations pertaining to tobacco promotions to include display of tobacco use in films and teleserials, HRIDAY conducted a signature campaign with students, teachers and parents of Delhi and 9 other cities of India. These signatures were compiled and presented to the MOHFW to use as support documents in filing a legal response by the lawyers of the MOHFW to the case filed by a Director in Bollywood, Mr. Mahesh Bhatt, challenging this legislation introduced by MOHFW.
Other tobacco control efforts by youth advocates
- Representations from youth groups: Youth Activists under the HRIDAY banner sent appeals to the MPs to support Indian Tobacco Control Act 2003 in the Parliament to protect their future health.
- Student activist members of SHAN (Student Health Action Network) submitted a pledge to the Union Health Minister, Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss, affirming their commitment to adopt healthy living habits and to promote them among other community members.
- Students appealed to the Health Minister to help them make and maintain healthy lifestyle choices through policies which strictly regulate tobacco and unhealthy foods, promote healthy foods and make regular physical activity easy to undertake in an urban environment.
- Meeting the President of India on World No Tobacco Day, May 2003: Encouraged and invigorated by the Presidential Assent to the Bill, HRIDAY activists called on the Honourable President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, to thank him for his decisive action. In their appeal to the President, the youth requested him to share his vision of a Tobacco Free India with the people of the country and further demanded a prohibition on depiction of tobacco products in Indian films, which were being used as attractive channels for advertising and promotion of tobacco products. The advocacy campaigns took a new turn with the enactment of the Act in 2004. HRIDAY youth representatives prepared to take on the role of monitoring the enforcement of this legislation.
- Indian Youth Fight Against Films Projecting Tobacco Use: Student representatives of HRIDAY appealed to the Central Board of Film Certification for complete ban on projection of tobacco use and brand identification of tobacco products in Indian films, to mark ‘The International Day of Action’ by the Smoke Free Movies Network.