As part of the Swachh Mission, the Pune Municipal Corporation is leaving no stone unturned to ensure a good report card on cleanliness. However, the PMC’s Nuisance Detection Squad (NDS) — launched in 2000 to keep a check on activities such as littering, spitting, urinating, defecating in the open — has been defunct for a while. Recent efforts by the state health department, to come up with a stringent anti-spitting law, is yet to turn into reality.
“For almost four years, the NDS has been kept away from actions pertaining to sanitation and solid waste management. The squad was transferred to the civic anti-encroachment department…,” said Joint Municipal Commissioner Suresh Jagtap. Currently, the NDS has no role to play in civic solid waste management.
Initially, the squad managed to keep a check on locals involved in such activities, and penalised them by “inculcating discipline” in them at public places. Ex-servicemen were appointed to take more effective action, like stopping locals from dumping rubble on footpaths, or from putting up unauthorised posters.
However, Jagtap said the NDS was discontinued as there were complaints from residents, as well as elected representatives, about corrupt practices by squad members. Currently, sanitary inspectors appointed across the city have been given the task of keeping in check littering, spitting, urinating and defecating in the open.
Jagtap said the civic administration regularly launches drives against practices such as spitting in the open, adding that those caught doing so are made to clean it. “The PMC has been undertaking public awareness drives against spitting in the open by putting up posters across the city,” said Jagtap. However, he admitted that public places in the city continued to be in a bad condition due to rampant spitting by locals, but claimed that compared to earlier years, the practice had reduced drastically.
Anti-spitting bill yet to be passed
Spitting in public places is one of the most unhygienic practices, and it contributes to the spread of contagious diseases, especially tuberculosis. Concerns over the sharp rise in infectious diseases had prompted the Maharashtra government to propose a bill banning spitting in public places. While the bill, which included punishment for offenders, was presented two years ago, it is yet to be passed.
State Health Minister Deepak Sawant had mooted the idea for a law that imposed heavy fines and also made offenders take up social services such as cleaning public places. While government officials said the law department is fine-tuning the legalities of the bill, the state health department has issued a circular warning its officers against spitting.
Dr Sayalee Kulkarni, in-charge of Dnyaneshwari Sanstha, which aims at spreading awareness about the ill-effects of addiction, said the proposed anti-spitting legislation was a good move. “But several questions remain unanswered, such as who is going to implement and enforce the ban on spitting,” said Kulkarni.
Dr Abhijit More of Jan Arogya Abhiyaan pointed out that TB has been prevalent for over 70 years. “We need to ensure safe hygienic conditions that will stop the spread of the disease and apart from imparting health education, the state also needs to take a stronger stand against spitting,” said More.