|Wednesday, 27 October 2004|
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Sound decision on video parlours
The decision by the authorities to exercise regulatory control over the country's proliferating video parlours is both timely and far-seeing.
It is bound to win a positive public response in view of the immense notoriety some video parlours have earned over the years as breeding places of moral decadence and sexual licentiousness. Besides, they are seen to go hand-in-hand with hard drug abuse, particularly among the young.
Video parlours trading in pornographic films and crude forms of "entertainment" which activate base instinctual drives within the human consciousness, are some of the disquieting by products of the sweeping Information and Communications Revolution, which in turn is a prominent dimension of the globalization process.
It is important that we alert ourselves to these morally repugnant and deeply-disturbing aspects of the globalizaton process lest we fall easy prey to the mesmerising buzzwords, phrases and notions that are usually trotted out by those having a vested interest in "marketing" these unpalatable dimensions of the Information Revolution.
Right away it needs to be said that it is not only the morally permissive among the young who patronise these "blue film parlours". They are avariciously sought by the sexually promiscuous among all age groups, irrespective of sex and gender.
It shouldn't come as a surprise, therefore, if some persons in even their twilight years are convicted of sexual offences. An important factor in such licentious behaviour is the relatively easy availability of lewd "entertainment", with some video parlours featuring prominently in supplying these clients with the necessary erotic stimulants.
However, those who prove more vulnerable to these corrupting influences are children and young adults, who are today exposed at a relatively early age to the communications media. It is the duty of parents and elders to ensure that the young and vulnerable are protected from these forces of moral decadence. They need to be monitored closely and taught self-control and patience early.
It needs to be pointed out, though, that actions speak louder than words in these matters. The Ministry of Cultural Affairs and National Heritage, we hope, would act swiftly and decisively against video dens which are currently spawning a multiplicity of denigrating ills. While on the subject, it is relevant to point out that action doesn't seem to have been taken against all billboards and advertising material which mislead vulnerable sections.
It is our hope that corrective action will flow swiftly from verbal pronouncements.
A biotech policy
Biotechnology is one of the fastest growing scientific disciplines. It is also controversial, as the current debate on Genetically Modified Food proves. Nevertheless, biotechnology has come to a stage where it cannot be ignored.
Asia, which lagged behind the US and Europe in the biotech field, is starting to take notice and engaging in more research. Our neighbour India plans to roll out by early next year a national biotechnology policy to address regulatory and investment concerns and to spur growth of the nascent industry.
The policy could encourage manufacturers to make biotechnology equipment rather than depend on imports and the government was planning more pacts with private entrepreneurs.
The growth of the biotechnology industry in Asia is a recent phenomenon. Revenues of Indian biotechnology firms alone will cross one billion US dollars next year. Indian biotech companies working in clinical trials and vaccines are posting strong growth.
There will always be arguments for and against biotechnology in general, and GM foods in particular. The Indian government favours GM food technology and seeds to feed its billion-plus population. But it will approve the technology "only when it is safe", according to Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal.
Biotech advocates say genetic modification boosts output of crops, cuts costs and can improve nutrition. This is important for Asian countries striving to raise their crop harvests in order to feed the ever-increasing population.
On the other hand, critics are worried about the environmental impact of GM-technology and are concerned GM foods may affect health. There is no conclusive proof that GM foods are bad for health and the environment, though more research may be necessary to ascertain the correct situation.
Advances in biotechnology also raise the possibility of reducing genetic abnormalities in new-born children and eventually, cloning itself. Animals have been successfully cloned and humans too can be cloned in theory. These issues pose ethical dilemmas, which many countries have avoided addressing properly. A comprehensive biotech policy can include these issues as well.
Sri Lanka must take the cue from India and formulate its own biotech policy, as we already have several institutions that engage in this type of research. Perhaps the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, of which both India and Sri Lanka are members, can evolve its own biotechnology policy and goals.
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