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Campaigner for good health as a national priority

ISP New Delhi Bureau: What is the greatest investment a society can make for its future? Suneel Vatsyayan and his team think it’s good health for the youth.

With a huge network of dedicated young volunteers spread across different states and union territories of India, Vatsyayan heads the Nada Young India Network (NYIN) for good health. The body works towards sensitising, capacity building and researching on everyday issues that concerns the health of the young people in India.

“We as a nation have a great advantage of being a young population. I ask this to every policy maker I meet, are we losing out on this advantage? Have we prioritised good health in our policy? We must resolve as a society to keep the young population away from tobacco and alcohol,” says Suneel Vatsyayan, Chairperson of Nada India Foundation talking to ISP correspondent.

A social entrepreneur and personal growth counsellor, Vatsyayan after his Masters in Social Work went on to study specialisation in criminology and correctional administration before venturing into full time working with young people along with his wife Pallavi. He established Nada India Foundation in the year 2001 and started working on non-communicable disease and promoting drug free healthy lifestyle.

Vatsyayan was the founding Director of the Navjyoti, Delhi Police Foundation for Correction, De-addiction and Rehabilitation. For more than twelve years he did groundbreaking work in the use of peer counsellors with addicts and people living with HIV and their families. After his stint with Navjyoti, he dedicated himself in helping educational institutions set up supervised peer counsellor based programmes.

Today, the NYIN teams are connected nationwide with new media tools and training youngsters for responcible use of social media is one of the training priorities of Vatsyayan. But, communicating with youngsters was a challenge for him in the early days. They tried with radio programs for adolescents and it was an instant hit.  Radio episodes named ‘Chunoti, the challenge’ on adolescent issues like identity, values, rights and responsibilities, leadership, drug prevention were aired on All India Radio by their team and they slowly built a network of young people to support the cause of good health across India.

“Smoking and alcohol consumption are the root cause of all evils. Most of the crime has an origin in such habits. We have tested with ban and prohibtion and it has proven to be ineffective. We want the government to control tobacco and alcohol consumption by bringing in strict regulations and control,” says Vatsyayan.

Bringing in a strong COTPA Amendment Act, increasing taxes on tobacco and increasing the permissible legal drinking age of alcohol are the few campaigns which Vatsyayan and his NYIN team are running across the country today.

We are pitched against the strong corporate lobby. We want an immediate ban on dedicated smoking areas and display of tobacco advertisements on point of sale. Awakening and uniting the young population to call for their rights is the path we have taken to achieve these goals, says Vatsyayan.

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