September 6, 2007

The Moral Minions

The fellow is a petty official in a state agency of minor importance. Granted, the state is notorious for its penchant for moral policing, but whence does a mere bureaucrat presume the authority to legislate? That too, legislate morality!

Mr. N. Selvaraju boasts the title of Director of Drugs Control, but forgets that it's a misnomer. Somebody should tell him that he directs nothing. Most importantly, he has no authority to direct the private behavior of the citizens of India, in whose service he earns his livelihood. His job is to uphold and implement the laws that the elected representatives of his actual paymasters had enacted in the legislature. His professional competence lies in knowing and understanding those laws and their administrative corollaries, and enforcing them. Nothing more, nothing less.

Mr. Selvaraju has contested the drug company Cipla's advertisements for a morning-after contraceptive, known as the i-pill, in a popular Tamil magazine, Ananda Vikatan, under India's Drugs and Magical Remedies Act of 1954. He is, of course, within his administrative bounds in doing this. In so doing, Mr. Selvaraju has complained,

The Drugs and Magical Remedies Act of 1954 clearly says that drugs which cause contraception in women must not be advertised. Cipla doesn't have exemption from the government for this.

Mr. Selvaraju has also complained about the dosage of the drug, and asserted that it must be sold only on a doctor's prescription.

My reading of the revised Drugs and Magical Remedies Act is that it proscribes only the advertisement of drugs that cause miscarriage, not contraception. I suspect many women of India today would still have a serious problem with this clause. I do, too. Since when did the Indian State have an interest in the just fertilized egg?

Cipla has refuted practically all of Mr. Selvaraju's complaints:

We have exemption from the government to advertise. The i-pill is not a Schedule H drug and we have all the necessary clearances from the Health Department as well as other departments.

It'd be up to the concerned court to determine if Cipla's actions had violated the Drugs and Magical Remedies Act or not. Whether its verdict went in favor or against the Tamil Nadu Directorate of Drugs Control, Mr. Selvaraju would have demonstrated due diligence in performing his duties. If the story had ended there, it would not have been blog-worthy.

Mr. Selvaraju, however, took a step over his boundaries then. A step into every Tamil woman's bedroom, trespassing on her most private space. Despite being only a minion of the Tamil Nadu Government, he had the temerity to declare that the state government had moral issues with the pill as well:

The advertising of this drug will mean that women will think 'I can do anything and there's an easy way not to get pregnant'. We can't allow such an attitude. We are not against women's rights, but this is a moral concern. [emphasis mine]

Excuse me, sir, did you say, "we can't allow such an attitude"? Who are these weighty "we", may I ask? You are not an elected official, and you speak for no one, not even for yourself when you speak in your official capacity. The only concern that you may have is for the laws of the land, and you may speak only for those.

As far as I know, there is no law in India against a woman having an one-night stand, casual sex for many nights, or an orgy with as many men as she liked. Mr. Selvaraju has no right whatsoever to peek into her bedroom and question her actions, or for that matter, lack of them. His moral concern is of no concern to her. She'd be well within her rights to think that she could do anything, carry out her intentions, and then pop a morning-after pill to make sure that she did not get pregnant.

Lecture at your will to your daughter, if you have one, Mr. Selvaraju. Bear in mind, though, that if she were a major, she wouldn't be obliged to satisfy your moral concern either!

  1. And we have double standards. Forced Sterlization is OK, but not the right to advertise the i-pill.

  2. Aargh, these boorocrats! They make my ancient blood boil even today! Thank you for this post: it only underlines the fact that any form of advertisement should be considered a part of free speech and exempt from any State control. Caveat Emptor! The rest can go to hell!

  3. The advertisements for the IPill are being aired.

    All that this bureaucrat has succeeded in doing was in giving enormous publicity to the Ipill. It was even the lead story for one day on the news channels. You cant buy publicity like that.

  4. dotmom:
    And then there are the condom ads, too!

    You are being elitist. Most will not understand what Caveat Emptor means, let along taking on the responsibility that it implies!

    Glad to know that it all worked out in Cipla's favor :)

  5. And I thought The Rational Fool is for the elite intellectual, and thought I would elevate myself in that company!

  6. And don't you think it would have appeared even more elitist to have explained it?

  7. I read this post today morning here in India, and I must say you've made my day! How refreshing!

    Rishi: this phenomenon, when it happens on the Internet, is referred to as the "Streisand Effect" - courtesy a Forbes article. It explained how the news that a paparrazzi photographer who had photographed Streisand's private estate gained worldwide publicity (as well as the photographs concerned) only when Streisand sued him. I find this concept very useful several times when I blog!


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