March 19, 2020 11:49:50 pm
SPIT in public and you may end up behind bars. As part of efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in Maharashtra, the state government has decided to enforce criminal action against all those found spitting or blowing their nose in public.
The state’s public health department has proposed to invoke sections of the Indian Penal Code against violators.
Maharashtra has the highest number of active coronavirus cases in India. Till Thursday, a total of 48 patients have tested positive for the virus in the state.
While most municipalities in the state already prohibit spitting and prescribe penalties, the provision is not enforced. “The government has been urging people to desist from the behaviour to combat the virus, but the practice is still widespread,” said a senior official. Cracking the whip, the state government has now decided to ask law enforcement agencies to lodge criminal cases against the errants under relevant IPC sections and section 188 of the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897, both of which prescribe a six month jail term.
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Paan thelas to remain closed
In a bid to enforce anti-spitting measures, the government also has plans to close down all paan thelas and paan shops across the state. “Despite their ill-efftects, there is a widespread culture of betel and tobacco chewing. You can’t enforce anti-spitting measures unless you order them closed,” a senior official said.
On Thursday, Mumbai’s satellite town, Thane, shut down all paan-bidi shops till March 31.
A similar order will now be issued for the rest of the state. An official agreed that those operating these shops and thelas will lose business till the gag order is withdrawn, but said this had to be done in larger public interest.
Meanwhile, the Mumbai Veedi Tambakhu Vyapaari Sangh, a left-affiliated outfit representing beedi and tobacco retailers, has appealed all retailers to keep shops shut till March 31.
‘Suspects have right to an ambulance’
The government has set aside 10 ambulances from its emergency medical services fleet to take coronavirus suspects to isolation facilites. Service operators, BVG India Private Limited, has been asked to make ambulances available at all times, sources said. Under the Maharashtra Emergency Medical Services or the 108 service, BVG India operates 93 ambulances in Mumbai.
On Thursday, public health authorities received a complaint that a person who had landed in Mumbai from one of the 10 affected countries and was to be taken to an isolation facility was denied the service, but when government authorities contacted the operator in this regard, it was clarified that this particular refusal was more borne out of the concern that the ambulance being sought was ill equipped to cater to a coronavirus patients. “Staff on 10 of our ambulances have been provided with personal protective equipment by the government. They are being used for suspected and infected cases,” said Dr Ashish Yadav, zonal manager (Mumbai), 108 BVG. He added, “We have so far carried nine patients to isolation facilities in the past five days. We have sought more personal protective equipment kits from the government.”
BMC recovers Rs 2.24 lakh in public spitting fines
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has recovered Rs 2.24 lakh in fines from at least 224 people who were caught spitting on the road. The BMC has levied fine of Rs 1,000 for those caught spitting in public places. Further, at least 167 people were also let off with a warning. On Wednesday, the BMC had collected Rs 1.7 lakh fine from 107 people for spitting in public places. Civic officials said the drive will continue till further notice.
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