Every person living in India who have taken an autorickshaw or any rickshaw for that matter will have many sputum anecdotes to share. A jet of disgusting saliva spraying out of the driver’s mouth while the rickshaw on full speed and you desperately trying to save yourself from any sprinkles landing on your skin. For germophobes, riding with such drivers is a nightmare coming true.
In India, the corners of any infrastructure adopt a very natural design over a period of time and no, there’s no inbuilt feature. In that sense, one can find Indians quite artistic. The built structure may be white or cream or shades of blue but the corners will always be crimson. And that too with layers of different patterns putting Da Vinci and Picasso to shame. UNESCO has declared that the mouth street painting of India is the best in the world. Who would beat that now?
With COVID-19 forcing the Indian masses to wake up from their unhygienic habits slumber and understand the importance of a basic thing such as washing the hands properly and sneezing and coughing hygiene, the dread of the spit has still not been overcome yet.
The Union Health Ministry has asked all states to prohibit the use and spitting of smokeless tobacco in public places to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Spitting in public has also been made a punishable offence under section 51 (b) of Disaster Management Act, 2005 in the wake of the extension of the lockdown till May 3.
As a matter of fact, many Indian states had already made it a punishable offence bringing in orders and legislation in their respective states only to be not enforced on the ground. Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh have made legislations having the provisions of fines that are nothing but a pittance which of course, largely remains on paper.
There has also been an online petition to ban chewing tobacco, paan and supari in public places under IPC 268 but it couldn’t gather many signatories, a reflection of how much insignificant people think it is. However, something like paan and tobacco chewing which has become synonymous to a deep-rooted intrinsic Indian culture cannot be resolved with petty fines whose implementation is a joke of another level.
For an average Indian man to stop him peeing and spitting on a wall, it takes the Gods and Goddesses themselves to convince them otherwise.
How does one think a petty law whose implementation is as real as one-grumpy-paan-chewing-office- -bearer-penalizing another-paan-chewer, is going to make any difference? This has become a part of an entitled Indian psyche, very much like patriarchy.
This irksome public habit is not only something which one cannot unsee after being made a reluctant spectator of such mouth acrobatics but it has in store virus and bacteria waiting to infect other innocent beings. Take a moment to also realize that grandeur of our infrastructure heritage that we take pride in, all those intricate engravings and designs, marbles and stones diligently put on stacks to erect the beautiful structures that we see today get defaced within a fraction of second because some paan-chewing shameless creature decided to do so. The famous Howrah Bridge has become infamous because these entitled paan and tobacco chewers have assaulted it so much so that the base has been corroded. There’s a tendency to look at this with a socio-economic lens but this habit surpasses all those divides, it is quite gentrified too.
Now that this pandemic has woken the sleeping masses with a tight slap of slime containing the virus and has made them think about all those seemingly harmless public touches, the terrorism of spit must be dealt in a mission mode.
There is a strong need for behavioural change communication and now is the most opportune time to encash upon the already sensitized people about the menace of saliva and touches.
It cannot be a better time to launch a nationwide campaign, at least through mass media public awareness advertising along with TV and Radio programmes to penetrate through the obstinate minds of such habitual offenders and even the potential ones against the onslaught of their saliva meted out to the public at large. This time has been considered a reboot of its own for the whole world to rethink their ways of living and the spitting culture can also be done away with.
Like it’s said, the iron is hot, bring in the hammer! (Loha garam hai, hathoda maar do)