Wednesday 26 September 2018

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Smokers, sellers fined in Goa

 

Smokers beware ! You can be now actually fined up to Rs 5000, in Goa. Nevertheless, the same fate you would meet if you chew tobacco or even spit in public.

Almost over one year after the Goa Prohibition of Smoking and Spitting Act 1997 was notified, the local authorities have started catching people smoking in public places and even the shopkeepers selling the stuff near schools or religious places.

Chief secretary Ashok Nath even had a review meeting on Monday after first youngster was fined Rs 1000 on 14 February, the Valentines Day, for smoking at the Panaji bus stand. Since then, the drive has been intensified.

Though the act does not ban tobacco consumption totally, it prohibits use of tobacco products in public places while banning sale of any kind of tobacco near the educational institutions and religious places. It also prohibits displaying or advertising the products.

Within a fortnight, the police penalised four smokers and 24 shopkeepers, collecting Rs 30,000. "We will intensify it further, by initially concentrating in cities", says D C Srivastav, the SP (CID).

While supporting the act in spirit, the state-level kiosk owners' association has vehemently opposed the sudden drive taken up by the police. "Rather than implementing it, police are using it to extract money from us", alleges Prashant Naik, the president.

He points out at a typical village structure where market is situated near any temple or church while the school building is also constructed in its close vicinity. "In such a case, 95 per cent markets will have to be displaced", observes Naik.

Nath, the chief secretary, also admits the fact stating that the enforcement would be difficult in view of the typical geographical location of Goan markets. He has thus instructed the authorities to carry out a systematic campaign with no intention of harassment but to build consciousness.

The kiosk owners have also volunteered to totally stop selling gutkha and selling other tobacco products to minors, while requesting the authorities to be lenient about other provisions. Incidentally, most of the city kiosks are given licence as cigarette-pan-bidi shop.

The police is however firm on coming down heavily on all the city-based kiosks selling tobacco products near schools or religious institutions while also pulling down all the hoardings advertising tobacco products. In case of smokers, the first step however would be the warning rather than direct action.

Realising all such practical difficulties, says the CS, he has instructed the concerned authorities to discriminate between harmful close places like buses, restaurants or cinema halls and open places like bus stands etc which are less harmful while enforcing the act.

The government has thus involved the information office, police department, education department as well as the transport department in terms of intensifying the public awareness campaign while taking stern action against the violators in select areas and not across the board.






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