We Asked: Why is the law or threat of penalty not stopping people from spitting on the roads, pavements and every public place? Even the boundaries of flyovers are filthy with such ungainly sights. You can even see policemen spitting paan or paanmasala on roads! What do you think is the reason for this stubbornness and what can be a remedy?
“Gutka”, the smokeless tobacco, was banned in India almost a decade ago. However, spitting in public places including roads, pavements and even government offices still continue. According to the municipal laws, it is an offence in the country, but it is hardly taken seriously by the citizens. The reasons follow for this wrong-headedness of the people. The very first reason is the low priority that is given to this blanket ban on spitting. Spitting was never taken seriously by the government as well as the public. It is something that is very usual and a part of day-to-day activity. It hardly makes any difference to anyone. The second reason is the small amount of fine for this unhealthy and unhygienic habit of around 70 million Indians who chew tobacco. The fine varies between Rs 200 to Rs 1000 in the states of India. The third reason is that the offenders are hardly caught and the penalty is never imposed. The authorities are never seen grabbing the offenders as seen in case of driving without helmets. The first step to this is a complete ban on production of smokeless tobacco products. A number of states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Haryana, Nagaland and Assam already issued orders on the ban of use of smokeless tobacco products and spitting in public places amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Now spitting has been made punishable with a fine under Section 51 (b) of the Disaster Management Act. Besides sanitary, health inspectors and any local health authority, NGOs should be involved and permitted to fine those who spit. For stopping spitting, a strong legislation backed by influential strategy such as public warning as well as practices like grassroots campaigns; mass awareness and education efforts should be undertaken. After all, changing habits of an individual actually necessitate changes in public attitudes and behavior. The authorities can also create “Sanitary Squads”, a group of health officers set out to conduct random raids in public places. The government should also identify popular faces that will actively propagate healthy issues related to tobacco chewing and spitting it anywhere. -Dr Sonika Kushwaha, President, Indian Biodiversity Conservation Society-Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh
Looking at the cleanliness inside malls, rail and metro stations, it becomes clear that individuals can and do follow guidelines when under observation in confined spaces. This does not necessarily hold true in other vast expanses where observation of individual behaviour is impossible to monitor or regulate. Not surprisingly then, roads, pavements, and other public spaces become the target for people habituated to spitting, mostly tobacco and other related products. The fact that our politicians, bureaucrats, and even police personnel are given to such vices only exacerbates the situation and no amount of persuasion to keep Bharat “swacch” is likely to make a dent in those reprehensible habits which do not easily die. Betel quid, a combination of areca nut, betel leaf, slaked lime, and often tobacco, is the fourth most commonly consumed psychoactive substance—after alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine—with extremely dangerous health consequences for its consumers. After chewing betel quid, the user’s lips, mouth, and teeth are typically stained red and the flood of saliva produced results in copious red stains on sidewalks, streets, sides of buildings and flyovers, hallways, and galleries frequented by the users. Betel quid is extremely popular among its users for its psycho stimulating effects and other purported benefits, such as a sense of relaxation, enhanced alertness and ability to concentrate, improved digestion and a sense of euphoria, and a “miracle cure” for diseases, its ability to relieve pain, reduce fever, strengthen teeth, and prevent indigestion, with added aphrodisiac properties all sanctioned by culture and religion. Given the fact that there are many reasons for the consumption of betel quid—many of which are fallacious and unscientific—the only way to deter individuals from its consumption is through public health interventions highlighting the baneful effects of such consumption and addiction. Laws to curb spitting in public places could be used to augment the awareness campaigns focusing on the ill effects of chewing betel quid and related products. Only then can we hope to succeed in making our cities and neighbourhoods stain free. -Surojit Mohan Gupta, educationist & freelance editing professional
Topic of the month: Why are open spaces and green patches, including parks, treated as dumping grounds? What is the mentality involved and how can we change it? You may send your views (either in Hindi or English) in 300 words at [email protected] Please also attach a colour photo of yourself.