CHENNAI: A video showing a three-year-old boy being forced to smoke ‘beedi’ by a group of men, who look like auto-rickshaw drivers, with one of the men offering the the child, on his lap, a ‘beedi’ to light has gone viral on the social media.
The boy who initially refuses, was coerced to do so after one of them is heard yelling at the boy asking him to smile since he was being photographed.
The boy lights up the beedi with much struggle and puffs out smoke amidst applause from the gang that also suggested he drag the smoke deep.
Another man, believed to be the person recording the incident, chides the man who is holding the child on his lap for trying to remove the beedi and tells him to keep his hands away as they were blocking the footage while recording.
The video which runs for 34 seconds concludes with the man removing the beedi from the boy’s mouth. The video also has another individual telling the others that with the video the police will be able to book and imprison them for six years.
Child-rights activists who not only argue that it is morally and ethically wrong also point out that those who were party to this footage can be booked under various provisions of COTPA - Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 and Juvenile Justice Act.
Andrew Sesuraj, State Convenor, Child Rights Observatory, opined that the sale of tobacco to minors is deemed illegal and forcing minors to smoke will attract a penalty.
He pointed out that the gang can be booked under the Juvenile Justice Act since it guarantees juveniles are entitled to care and protection.
When contacted, a senior police official in the State, said that sharing the video in social networking sites and online platforms without concealing the identity of the child will be considered an offence and those indulging in it can also be booked.