A tiny Badaga hamlet where everyone is a non-smoker
Shantha Thiagarajan, TNN, Feb 20, 2011( from THE TIMES OF INDIA)
UDHAGAMANDALAM: A blue mist wraps Melur, a Badaga village near Ooty, but the villagers don’t light up beedis or cigarettes to warm themselves in the cool dawn. For Melur, about 20 km from Ooty in the Nilgiris, has imposed and enforced a complete ban on smoking and chewing tobacco.
At the two entry points to the village, a signboard declares: Smoking is prohibited within the village’. The 600 men in this village of 1,000 people don’t smoke or chew tobacco inside the village. Not one of the seven village shops sells cigarettes or beedis.
“After we imposed the ban, 80% of the villagers have quit smoking. The rest leave the village if they want to smoke,” said village panchayat president MK Krishnan. “We imposed the ban a couple of years ago,” he says, adding that he is not sure of the exact date or year.
There is no penalty for violating the ban, “Till now, nobody has violated it. We just tell people about our ban and they respect it. Since we are all living in the same community and respect one another, there is no need for a penalty,” says Krishnan.
B Shivaraj, a farmer, says they noticed that young people were smoking even in front of their elders. “They had been influenced by TV and movies. Our Badaga way of living has always placed emphasis on values and respect for elders. So we thought we should do something about it and imposed the ban,” he said. Melur is the head village’ of the 33 villages in the merkunadu semai’, There are four prominent ‘semais’ (societies) in the Badaga community in the Nilgiris. “We felt we should set an example for the others,” says another resident MK Ramakrishnan. Most of the villagers are small tea growers or government employees.
Even construction labourers who come to the village for work follow the non-smoking orders. “Till a few years ago, both young people and elders would laze around all day, smoking. The village committee or the mahasabai decided to change people’s attitudes,” says R Balamurugan, the village school teacher. S Janaki, another resident, said, “I’m happy that the men have stopped smoking. Many have started working. In future, I hope the rest also give up.”
Read the article here: A tiny hamlet where everyone is a non-smoker – The Times of India