Since May when the Maharashtra government introduced an anti-spitting notification with a hefty fine to prevent people from spitting, the public health department has managed to collect just Rs 4,860 in fine across the entire state. The notification was announced by state Health Minister Rajesh Tope to clamp down on the possible coronavirus spread through spitting. However, a lack of personnel has made it difficult for health officials to regulate and fine offenders in both urban and rural districts.
Only Satara, Pune and Bhandara have collected fines. Pune collected Rs 2,600, Bhandara Rs 2,200 and Satara Rs 60, state public health department data shows. Spitting in public places has been prohibited since close to a decade, but no measures have been taken in the past to penalise offenders. The state government is using Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, in view of the Covid-19 pandemic to increase awareness. The fine goes up to Rs 1,000 for the first violation along with one day of social service. Those found repeating the offence will have to shell out Rs 3,000 and three days of public service. Third time offenders will have to pay Rs 5,000 and five days of public service.
Dr M R Patanshetti, Deputy Director, Nashik circle, where no fine has been collected, said, “If a person spits in hospital, I can fine, but it is not possible to go in public and fine people. Implementation is difficult for doctors. We are already overburdened.” He added that they need help from the police and revenue department.
If an infected person spits in public, passersby have higher risk of coming in contact with coronavirus. Health officials said tobacco chewers pose greater risk to the general public.
Ganesh Sonawane, from Directorate of Health Services, said, “Each district civil surgeon is entrusted with the responsibility of penalising people for spitting. But health department officials refrain from penalising people in public places without police support. Since it is not easy to go around with police to look for violators the fine collection is low.”
Sonawane said they have reached out to the Food and Drug Administration and Maharashtra police to ramp up checking in public places.
Dr Sadhana Tayade, director of Directorate of Health Services, said collecting fine for spitting is low on priority list for implementing agencies. “Apart from improving hygiene in public places, this notification could also be a means of collecting huge revenue,” she said, adding that the state can also generate revenue through fine levied for not wearing mask and sale of loose cigarettes. “Unfortunately we need manpower for this,” she said.
In Osmanabad where no fine has been collected since May, district health officer Dr HV Wadgave said, “We have to depute officials for this in the district. For violation of not wearing mask and gathering in a group, we are penalising people, and we have collected over Rs 50 lakh fine.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines