Spitting is rampant in our county. When we do so, we don’t realise that we are spreading a number diseases and infections among people. Today, in spite of medical advancement, tuberculosis is on the rise. A major reason is that people spit anywhere; not even public areas like roads, bus terminals and railway stations are spared. It also disfigures windows of trains, walls and public parks. A deadly infection like swine flu probably became uncontrollable in our country because of the pernicious practice. People aren’t aware that saliva contains bacteria.
Through evaporation, they permeate into the air and then enter into the respiratory system of a healthy person. Chewing tobacco or paan has exacerbated unhygienic conditions in the environs. Moreover people also have some myths that if fluids are generated when they cough, they must spit them out. Sometimes this habit sticks on permanently. However, the truth is that there is no harm in gulping down the fluids.
Our public hygiene infrastructure is appalling
Social and personal hygiene are two different things. Indians have excellent personal hygiene. However, they have a poor concept of social hygiene. Spitting is a social problem, part of the blame must be apportioned to the individual. Since the government has failed to provide infrastructure in terms of dustbins and better public utility services. Also, spitting of paan, gutka and tobacco residue is a ‘necessity’ for those who chew them. The social change will happen through provision of infrastructure and heavy penalties. For example, in Singapore when spitting chewing gum was rampant on the streets, the government imposed a fine of 500 Singapore dollars. The practice has stopped completely since the fines were strictly imposed. Apart from creating awareness about cleanliness and its importance in our lives; there must be awareness about the number of infections which are spread through spitting. Involving youngsters to levy a fine will work.
Only monetary penalties work well in India
In India, those who work for long hours mostly develop the habit of chewing gutkha or paan. Hence they are bound to spit anywhere since they lack amenities and discipline. The authorities have failed to enforce existing laws for either checking the use of plastic bags or littering on the road. Even the fines are very nominal; hence no one feels such fear to check their wrong habits. The government must hike the fine severely only then will people think twice while spitting on the road. I don’t think except penalties any other campaign will work in India. Indians are known to follow Western etiquette, but we haven’t adopted the habit of cleaning our own society and maintaining proper hygiene in our area.
Make offenders clean public places
Spitting paan is illegal and anyone caught doing so should be fined heavily for the damage. The regulations must be implemented strictly. There is no use if these remain only on paper. The other punishment should entail asking them to clean public toilets. This will deter people from dirtying the environs, since they will know first hand about the trouble that sanitation workers face. An awareness campaign could work if it is designed taking the Indian mindset into account. But penalties and fines are the ultimate deterrent, since people won’t like to shell out large sums of money.
Even authorities flout norms
The city is being painted red due to the bad habits of a few people. I’m unaware of fines that are charged by the government for spitting on the street. Moreover, I have observed the authorities littering the city streets themselves, oblivious to the need to set benchmarks for others. I think more than hiking fines, people should be made aware of the rules. People should be nurtured to inculcate these habits since childhood. A radical way of dealing with these problems is through community service. Offenders can be made to be a part of clean-up drives.
Levy heavy taxes on paan masala
The fear of paying a hefty fine will act as a deterrent against spitting. People need to realise that it is a bad habit. Moreover spittle also causes diseases and spoils the look of the city. Another way, to curb chewing paan or tobacco spitting will be to impose heavy taxes on them, thereby making them costly. As for the education campaign to edify people about spitting, it won’t work in Mumbai for multiple reasons. Most importantly, money will be squandered on trivial elements of the campaign, instead of the actual process. Moreover how can we educate so many people about the menace?
We need to eradicate uncivil habit
Yes, penalties should be hiked for spitting in public places. To eradicate such an uncivil habit, severe punishment should be meted out to miscreants. But honestly, I don’t think this will work in Mumbai. Strict action may work in some parts of the city, but it won’t completely eliminate the paan spitting nuisance. It is extremely difficult to have personnel patrol every nook and corner of the city. Moreover, who will stop people from spitting from trains and buses? People don’t give a second thought while spitting from the window of a moving bus. Will it be possible to have someone monitor the miscreants in public places all the time?
Authorities lax about enforcing laws
Already there are penalties imposed on the usage of plastic bags and people spitting in public places. But have these things changed anything? People not serious about changing their filthy habits nor are authorities firm in their actions. A punishment or a huge fine may act as a deterrent for some time but they say ‘Old habits die hard’, so the realisation should come from within rather than being pointed out by someone. There are a few active citizens who relentlessly keep their surroundings clean, but they need support from a vast majority. If the government is spending on any activity and making an effort to change things, citizens need to be cooperative.