Cannabis – Marijuana

Indian media is filled with headlines of Aryan Khan’s  (son of Bollywood Star Sharukh Khan) arrest by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) of India on a cruise ship on October 3, 2021.  Many media houses are celebrating the event with all pomp and glory throwing in bits and pieces of Masala (spice) – some even went berserk – especially those active on the social-media.

Can you justify such media glare and media trial?

Sashi Tharoor summed it up very well through his tweet “I am no fan of recreational drugs and haven’t ever tried any, but I am repelled by the ghoulish epicaricacy displayed by those now witch-hunting Sharukh Khan on his son’s arrest. Have some empathy, folks. The public glare is bad enough; no need to gleefully rub a 23yr old’s face in it.”

I needed a dictionary to understand his tweet – ghoulish (ugly and unpleasant, or frightening) epicaricacy (deriving pleasure from the misfortunes of others.)  That is Tharoorian English for you!!

I too am not a fan of recreational drugs and never tried it.  The smell of marijuana smoke puts me off – though I have been a cigarette smoker for over four decades.  But the way the NCB, Indian media and the judiciary have conducted themselves in dealing with the case – I am no fan of that too.  It is absurd – may be I have lived in Canada for 18 years where a similar case would have been dealt with differently. 

This prompted me to delve into the Canadian laws on Cannabis.  In our Province of Ontario, one must be 19 and older to buy, use, possess and grow recreational Cannabis. This is the same as the minimum age for the sale of tobacco and alcohol in Ontario. The law stipulates that one can smoke and vape Cannabis in private residences, many outdoor public places (sidewalks and parks,) designated smoking guest rooms in hotels, motels and inns, etc. 

After the law was implemented in October 2019, I found a drastic decrease in the odor of Marijuana smoke while on my walks, especially at park corners. It appeared that it was Cool no more.

The law also permits a person to possess a maximum of 30 grams (about one ounce) of dried cannabis  in public at any time.  I also realised that I can grow four Cannabis plants at our home for recreational purpose.  

My mind raced back to 1980’s – a Television interview of a Tribal Chieftain from Kerala, India.  In the early 1970’s when Mrs Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India, she visited the tribal area accompanied by Mr K Karunakaran, then Home Minister of Kerala State.  The Tribal Chieftain was fortunate to have had an audience with Mrs Gandhi.  She asked him as to what she could do for the welfare of his people and the Chieftain did not ask for a school, not a hospital and not a proper road to his land – he did not ask for  drinking water facilities and  not for electricity – but he promptly asked “Our people should be allowed to grow two Cannabis plants per household.”

Mrs Gandhi smiled and Mr Karunakaran nodded.  The Chieftain claimed that thereafter the Police and the  State Excise Department accepted it as an unwritten law and never ever bothered them.

Honouring A Fallen Soldier

Sepoy Vaishakh H, an Indian army soldier from Kerala, who made the ultimate sacrifice during an encounter with terrorists on October 11, 2021.  His mortal remains arrived in Kerala on October 13 and  was cremated on October 14 amidst heavy rain with full military honours.  Sepoy Vaishakh was among the five Army personnel who died in a gunfight with terrorists during an operation in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir on October 11.

The operation was launched in a village close to Dera Ki Gali (DKG) in Surankote (Jammu & Kashmir) in the early hours following intelligence inputs about the presence of terrorists who had infiltrated from across the Line of Control (LoC).

Prior to the funeral, his body was kept at his childhood LP school in Kudavattoor village and then at his home for public viewing. A huge crowd, including those who had no connection with the soldier, turned up to pay their last respects.

Kerala Finance Minister KN Balagopal, who was representing the state government, Mavelikkara MP Kodikunnil Suresh and state Animal Husbandry Minister J Chinchu Rani and several senior government and Army officials were also present at the soldier’s home to pay their last respects.

Please spare a moment and take a look at the coffin. 

A fallen soldier deserves much more than this!!!!

Suicide Reporting by Media

Recently there has been many  reports on the media about suicides by young university students and young adults.  Some media houses, and some social media activists have gone on an overdrive to report such incidents with all its fury. 

Evidence suggests that the media can influence societal attitudes and beliefs to various social issues. This influence is especially strong for mental health issues, particularly suicide. Canadian newspaper coverage of the popular fictional Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, wherein the lead character dies by suicide in the final episode, generally adhered to core best practice media recommendations, and sensitively discussed suicide from various angles, prompting productive discussion and dialogue about youth suicide. These findings suggest that the media can be an ally in promoting dialogue and raising awareness of important public health issues such as suicide.

J.K. Rowling, Oprah Winfrey and Lady Gaga all figure among celebrities who have contemplated suicide but found help and stepped back from the brink. U.S. study found a 10 percent increase in suicide mortality after the 2014 death of Robin Williams, American actor and comedian, which was partially attributed to inappropriate media coverage. Similar increases in suicide mortality were witnessed in Canada and Australia after the death of this well-known celebrity.

This phenomenon is known as ‘suicide contagion’ or ‘copycat suicide.’  Research has found that media coverage with details as to how a person died by suicide, may prompt someone vulnerable to identify with the individual and copy actions described in media coverage.

Greater the coverage of a suicide story higher the chances of finding a copycat.

WHO statistics indicate that more than 700 000 people die world over by suicide every year. Furthermore, for each suicide, there are more than 20 suicide attempts.  Suicides and suicide attempts have a ripple effect that impacts on families, friends, colleagues, communities and societies.  77% of global suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries.  Ingestion of pesticide, hanging and firearms are among the most common methods of suicide globally.

While the link between suicide and mental disorders (in particular, depression and alcohol use disorders) is well established in high-income countries, many suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis with a breakdown in the ability to deal with life stresses, such as financial problems, relationship break-up or chronic pain and illness.

In addition, experiencing conflict, disaster, violence, abuse, or loss and a sense of isolation are strongly associated with suicidal behaviour. Suicide rates are also high amongst vulnerable groups who experience discrimination, such as refugees and migrants; indigenous peoples; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTQ2S+) persons; and prisoners. By far the strongest risk factor for suicide is a previous suicide attempt.

Suicides are preventable. There are a number of measures that can be taken at every level – school, university, community, family – to prevent suicide and suicide attempts. World Health Organisation’s (WHO)’s approach to suicide prevention, recommends:-

  • limit access to the means of suicide (e.g. pesticides, firearms, certain medications);
  • foster socio-emotional life skills in adolescents;
  • early identify, assess, manage and follow up anyone who is affected by suicidal behaviours.,
  • interact with the media for responsible reporting of suicide;

Is there a need to regulate such reporting?

In Canada, Canada Suicide Prevention Service (CSPS) provides suicide prevention and support to the people of Canada. The have laid down best practices and recommendations geared to media and other organisations with suggested guidelines and practices on how to report and comment on suicide activities, whether in the media, social media sites or internal communiques.  They recommend:-

  • Health reporters, not crime reporters, are best positioned to cover suicides.
  • Reports should generally avoid details of suicide methods, especially when unusual or novel methods are involved.
  • Emergency resource links should be included in all articles that deal with suicide.

Specific for social-media:

  • Providing information and resources to people who make suicide-related queries or posts;
  • Including panic buttons that allow for rapid access to crisis services/hotlines;
  • Providing mechanisms for users to report if they are concerned about someone with the possibility for rapid intervention; and
  • Moderating forums that frequently include suicide-related postings and making sure to remove inappropriate posts.

CSPS Recommends

  • Ongoing collaboration between journalists and mental health professionals, acknowledging scientific evidence and the autonomy of journalists;
  • All journalism schools include teaching of how to report responsibly and respectfully on the topic of suicide, including attention to issues related to ethics and social justice;
  • Media training for mental health professionals who are likely to be called on to comment on suicide in the press; and
  • Education for policy-makers and other prominent figures who may be asked to comment publicly on the topic of suicide.

The Austrian journalists recently altered the way they reported about suicide. Studies of that experience showed that after the changes, there was a significant reduction in suicide deaths across the country. Since then many other countries have put out recommendations. 

Antiquity Fraud

A new fraud has been unearthed in Kerala, India regarding sale of antiquity.  Monson, a self claimed antique dealer, was recently arrested in Kerala, India for cheating and forgery.  He boasted of high-profile connections in Kerala, which included political leaders, senior police officers and celebrities.  Monson tricked investors into believing that he got over 26 million Rupees from selling antiques to royal families in the Middle East.  He boasted that his collection included the staff of Moses, two out of the 30 silver coins taken by Judas and the throne of Tipu Sultan.

His home in Kochi, where the fake antiques and artifacts were kept, used to be allegedly frequented by senior police officers. One of the pictures doing the rounds is of former DGP Behera and ADGP Abraham during one such visit. Behera is seen sitting on a throne from Monson’s collection. He is flanked by the ADGP holding a sword.

Shawn Greenalg defrauded both the British Museum and Christie’s in 2003 with an ancient Egyptian statue of the granddaughter of King Tutankhamen, as 3,300 years old. The Bolton Museum purchased the piece that same year, but shortly after it went on display in 2004 it was discovered to be a fake. It turned out to have been be made by Shawn Greenalgh in his parents’ shed. Greenalgh and his parents made and sold forgeries for more than 17 years, earning more than a million dollars running their scheme.

Among the most famous antiquity frauds in the world is the Shroud of Turin, considered one of the holy relics by Catholics, who believe the cloth was Jesus’ burial shroud and bears the image of his face. A carbon-dating testing of 1988 revealed that the fibers in the linen cloth were not from the time of Jesus’ crucifixion.

In September 2020, New York Police arrested Erdal Dere and Faisal Khan who compromised that integrity, and defrauded buyers and brokers of the antiquities they sold, by fabricating the provenance of those antiquities, and concealing their true history.

There are many high profile cases of antiquity frauds reported from all over the world.  If the British Museum and Christie’s  could be defrauded, anyone else could also be.  In this case it was the senior Police officers of Kerala who were made to believe the authenticity of the fake antiques.  If the police could be defrauded so easily, where do the common-folk go?

It prompted me to research into the rules and regulations laid down by the Government of India vide  The Antiquities And Art Treasures Act of 1972.  The act defines antiquity as:-

  • Any coin, sculpture, painting, epigraph or other work of art or craftsmanship;
  • Any article, object or thing detached from a building or cave;
  • Any article, object or thing illustrative of science, art, crafts, literature, religion, customs, morals or politics in bygone ages;
  • Any article, object or thing of historical interest;
  • Any article, object or thing declared by the Central Government, by notification in the Official Gazette, to be an antiquity for the purposes of this Act, which has been in existence for not less than one hundred years;
  • Any manuscript, record or other document which is of scientific, historical, literary or aesthetic value and which has been in existence for not less than seventy-five years.

The act stipulates that it no person shall, himself or by any other person on his behalf, carry on the business of selling or offering to sell any antiquity without a valid licence from the Archeological Survey of India.

The acts specifies that every person who owns, controls or is in possession of any antiquity shall register such antiquity.  Whenever any person transfers the ownership, control or possession of any antiquity, such transfer must be intimated to the registering officer.

There is no dearth of rules, but if the people responsible to implement them are not aware of the rules, where does the poor rule hide?