Embarrassment awaits India in World Health Assembly

NGOs feel India has gone back on anti tobacco commitment

Embarrassment awaits India in World Health Assembly

New Delhi, May 17:  To be given chair of World Health Assembly after 19 years is of course a matter of great jubilation but India may have to preside over some embarrassment too in Geneva.

World Health Assembly (WHA), apex decision making body of WHO begins Monday. Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda will preside over the assembly. Nadda is there with high level delegation in tow.

Yoga flavor at WHA may be a bit of a saving grace.

Many anti tobacco NGOs have gathered there hell bent on raising tobacco pictorial warning question to embarrass the Minister. NGOs feel that Indian government has buckled under tobacco industry pressure and gone back on its anti tobacco commitment.

Talking to Meditoall editor in chief Dhananjay Kumar, a top official of Union Health Ministry, said, ‘we are alternating between jubilee and worry about World Health Assembly. While India getting presidency of the prestigious world health body is a cause for celebration, at the same time we are being haunted by some pricking questions that might raise their heads there. On tobacco pictorial warning question, we really have lot to answer. Reducing the health allocation in the budget is another issue. We are praying they do not play the spoil sport.’

Talking to Meditoall, one of the prominent anti tobacco campaigners, who will be in Geneva to organize tobacco questions to be
hurled at J.P. Nadda said, ‘we are not going to spare him of this ignominy. We are cocksure the pictorial warning has shrunk and delayed due to industry pressure.’ The WHA will last till May 27.

A photo exhibition named ‘Yoga for All, Yoga for Health’ has been organized at the venue to be inaugurated jointly by Nadda and WHO Director-General Margaret Chan. UN General Assembly has declared June 21 as the ‘International Day of Yoga’.

Nadda is scheduled to participate in a number of bilateral and multilateral meetings on the sidelines of the WHA including the Commonwealth Health Ministers’ Meeting, 8th NAM Health Ministers’ Meeting and BRICS Health Ministers’ meeting. He may hold separate bilateral meetings with a host of countries including China, the Netherlands, and the US, the UK, Russia, South Africa, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Brazil and others. The Assembly is expected to take up crucial issues including anti-microbial resistance, air pollution and health etc.