September 17, 2020
The opinion in the country seems to be divided over whether it is important to continue with the hyped ongoing public discourse on the clean-up operation of Bollywood from its alleged drug and underworld nexus or should we let that be carried out as per the SOP of the NCB+CBI and shift the public discourse to the relevant issue of how to handle the pandemic and its economic fallout. A large section of people, quite a few of them educated professionals, believe that the immediate priority should be to make India a drug-free State. It is, certainly, a very noble thought but a little ill-timed. The priority for people, especially those who can make a direct and indirect contribution in managing the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, should be focusing on restricting the slide-down of the economy and try and get employment back.
There is some rigorous and effective ground level activity steered by the NCB resulting in the arrests of people in Mumbai for consuming and peddling in drugs. It is reported that Marijuana is the most common drug that is in use.
Cannabis or Marijuana has a long history of use in India. It has been in use in different forms for the last 4000 years and, probably, for this reason it is not perceived as severely harmful in spite of the fact that it is categorized as a psychotropic drug. Cannabis has three usage forms – resin is Charas, flowers are Ganja and seeds and leaves are Bhang. Interestingly, the consumption of Bhang is wide-spread and socially accepted in India – remember those hit Bollywood Bhang songs. As a result of this, the Government of India had to negotiate hard to keep Bhaang out of the definition of Cannabis when the international treaty on Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was being worked out. It got a twenty five year exemption in the year 1961 and in 1985 the Government of India passed the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act in the year 1985. It managed to keep Bhaang out on the plea that it would mean showing ‘intolerance to the social and religious customs of India’. It needs to be accepted that a consumption history of four thousand years cannot be gotten out of the system by the passing of an Act and keeping Bhaang out of the purview of the Act.
Drug usage – primarily Cannabis – in India is rampant and according to a survey carried out in 2019 by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, 2.83 per cent of the population in the age group of 10 to 75 years (31 million) were current users of Cannabis. If this is the scale of drug usage penetration in India, it defies any logic for the NCB to go on an overdrive to unearth the drug syndicate that is in operation while trying to find a relationship of that to the murder of the film star. NCB would, for sure, unearth something that throws light on the case but the drug problem would remain at the same scale. It is expected that in addition to sending a team to find out and arrest users and peddlers in Mumbai, it should send a team from their office in RK Puram to Paharganj (a 20 minute drive) – the known drug haven of Delhi – and arrest the people there who are openly and unabashedly dealing in drugs. We cannot wait for a suicide or murder of a Delhi based actor for seeing a clean-up drive in Delhi.
The government and its enforcement agencies need to be seen working on their own and not only under public or political pressure that gets generated when a celebrity is involved. Passing through the lanes of Delhi one sees people smoking and snorting drugs openly and it would be the same in other cities as well. The drug menace requires to be handled with the active engagement with social scientists, NGOs, medical scientists, educationists, public interest groups and others and not by a specialized branch of the police alone. Arresting consumers is not the solution. Need to create conditions in which the desire to drift to drugs is controlled and even if one tends to, it becomes difficult to source it..
Remote working or work from home (WFH) is emerging as the new normal in the Indian corporate world. It, certainly, is a wonderful phenomenon that went through a surge in acceptability in the crisis that hit us earlier in the year. In the WFH model employees work hard and even extra hours, the officeadministration costs are slashed significantly, there are no agonizing commutes to undertake, employees find time for household errands, old parents are given medicines on time, freshly cooked meals are available, and people no more have to grudgingly get under the shower every day. A lot of companies have already started working on the model of adopting WFH as a permanent alternative to the conventional office working.
WFH can make people sedentary and lethargic and at the same time generate a nagging sense of insecurity that stems from the fact that a person is not operating in a live environment and are not privy to intricate intra and inter departmental power play at work. Audio and video calls, chats and conferences are just not a perfect substitute for discussing issues in the conference room, catching up on political developments in the cafeteria, or going to the terrace in a group for a smoke and bitching about colleagues.
It is all very good to feel excited about the emerging operating culture. But, the fact is that there is something critical that is missing in this environment wherein people are audio-visually connected through digital manipulation. It is inconceivable that people can effectively engage, share, lead, care and empathize with colleagues on con-calls or mails. A long term exposure to the lack of opportunity to get a feel of the third dimension in our visual encounters can have a huge psychological impact on people. A visual feel of humans and the environment in which they operate in three dimensions is as important as the depth of the cupboard in which we store our belongings.
While WFH makes a lot of sense for employers, there are serious issues that the employees have to handle. A one or two room apartment in a lower middle class complex in the suburbs of Mumbai in which the employee of a multinational company lives with his old parents and a younger sibling is just not the environment to WFH. Howsoever hard he might try, he would just not able to create the office environment within that setting to be productive and effective. Just as the office environment is expected to drive the behaviour of an employee, home environment plays on the mind of the person when working from home. People at junior levels, who do not have a niche in the house which they can call home office should be working from office. It can get psychologically and socially messy as aspiring young employees can end up imagining their family members as intruders who are coming in the way of their performance and growth. This sociological phenomenon is bound to impact the quality of life of parents who, for good reasons, expect care and company in their old age.