Chennai

How citizen groups are campaigning for a spit free India

 

 

Campaigns against spitting in public places has gained fresh steam, and this renewed focus has to do with efforts to check the spread of COVID-19. Although civic bodies in some cities had framed laws to penalise those spitting in public places, these exercises were not effective due to poor enforcement.

Remember, checking spitting is one of the focus areas of Swachh Bharath Mission, and the others being checking open defecation, urination and littering.

From social media campaigns to online petitions pushing decision makers to enforce rules, citizen groups are finding ever new ways to start an anti-spitting movement.

This is the time for having such a movement, says Odette Katrak, co-founder, Beautiful Bengaluru, a citizens’ initiative working on environment and cleaner public spaces.

Beautiful Bengaluru launched the ‘Stop India Spitting’ campaign by starting an online petition mid-March on Change.org requesting that the Prime Minister make spitting a punishable offence. Odette also sent an open letter to the PM, seeking that he speak about the issue of spitting while addressing the nation in the radio programme. It may be noted that the PM did take it up in the programme.

“On April 26, Mann Ki Baat discussed this concern,” says Odette.

Online campaigns

In Navi Mumbai, Nat Connect Foundation and Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan launched a social media campaign that made many heads turn. It is titled ‘SirUthakekethuko’ (lift your head while spitting). “We are asking people to look up and spit, which means it falls on your face to make them understand what it means to spit on public places,” says B.N. Kumar, director of the Foundation.

In a few regions of Kerala, Y’s Women’s Club of Trivandrum Angels, a group under the Y’s Men International, started an online petition to check spitting on roads. Just like how charity begins at home, good hygiene starts with you and me, reads a note. Before preaching to others, the Club has made its members take a pledge that they will not spit at public places.

A Facebook page (Spit Free India Campaign) has personalities, speaking in different languages and supporting the cause of creating a spit-free India.

A petition started by residents of Kolkata to ban spitting in the open has a poster reading “spitting spreads death”.

Heavy fine for spitting?

Does making spitting a punishable offence help curb this behaviour? Campaigners are divided in their answers. Kumar feels naming and shaming people will help stop this practice. Navi Mumbai, for instance, recently increased the fine amount from ₹ 250 to ₹ 1000. “Penalty was always there for those spitting in public places but enforcement was poor, so we have been asking the local body to shame the offender as well as collect a hefty fine,” says Kumar.

Odette likes to differ. Although her petition was aimed at making it a punishable offence, she says, that’s just the beginning. A long-term approach would ensure that the initiative doesn’t focus only on enforcement, but brings awareness into the picture.

Through Beautiful Bengaluru, Odette and her group have been having conversations around the topic.

People ask her why the campaign is called ‘Stop India Spitting’ and not ‘Stop Spitting India’.

“Stop Spitting India would mean I am addressing only that segment of people who are spitting and the others would tune out, but our campaign hinges on the idea that those who do not spit also need to play an active role,” says Odette, a behavioural change professional.

She says ‘Stop India Spitting’ is both a goal and call to action to those who do not spit.

The campaign asks people to put up A4-sized posters saying ‘No Spitting Please’ in front of their premises. It can also be downloaded from https://beautifulbengaluru.org/ where it is available in 15 languages.

“More than eight networks, which include Bengaluru Apartment Federation, Whitefield Rising and Janaagraha, are supporting us in this initiative. Our next step is to reach out to groups in other cities. I am already in touch with people in North and North East India,” she says, adding, “You need to get as many people as possible, involved.”

Those keen on participating in the campaign against spitting can share their inputs by taking part in this survey by Beautiful Bengaluru at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdpe W8VrtaEYiEXtDA -EWFyPpyh_

eJd60MAJRf-BB3vcQaH5Q/viewform

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Printable version | May 11, 2021 10:42:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/spitters-beware/article31771315.ece

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