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From gutka ban to anti-Romeo squads, Yogi Adityanath cracks the whip

LiveMint logoLiveMint 23-03-2017 Nikita Doval

New Delhi: The first few days at work of the newly appointed Uttar Pradesh chief minister were bound to make news, irrespective of what happened, and Yogi Adityanath, the 21st CM of one of India’s biggest states, did not disappoint.

On a day that anti-Romeo squads swung into action and abattoirs were shut down across the state, Adityanath on Wednesday banned the use of paan and gutka in all government offices. The decision came after the CM’s visit to the annexe building of his office in Lok Bhawan in Lucknow.

Apparently Adityanath was incensed by betel nut juice stains on the wall and immediately ordered a ban on chewing of tobacco products. The order was later extended to educational institutions and hospitals in the state.

The CM’s decision is actually in tune with municipal laws across the states in the country which prohibit spitting and even have stipulated fines for doing so.

Also Read| Yogi Adityanath bans pan, tobacco in schools, hospitals and govt buildings in UP

According to a 2016 report carried by The Hindu, one can be fined between Rs100 and Rs200 for spitting in UP, but then the fine is rarely implemented.

UP is not alone in being lackadaisical when it comes to implementation. Be it Delhi, Mumbai or Bihar, there are regulations against chewing of tobacco and spitting in public but are rarely followed. India had banned smoking in public places in 2008 and in 2016 the Supreme Court had strengthened the gutka ban by asking that the sale of chewable tobacco be stopped.

India has enacted strict legislation vis-a-vis the sale of gutka, which is known to be highly addictive and a carcinogen. However, manufacturers got around the ban by selling tobacco and pan masala separately.

It’s still not clear whether the new UP CM’s wrath on seeing the paan stained walls of his new office complex were due to cleanliness reasons or health issues. After all, one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s chief campaigns has been Swachh Bharat and dirty government building walls can send out the wrong message.

Adityanath’s move also reminds of Modi’s working style, especially after taking over as the Prime Minister, when reporting timings for government officials were enforced strictly and a laid back attitude, especially in the corridors of power, was frowned upon.

Also Read| Yogi Adityanath orders closure of slaughter houses in Uttar Pradesh

In fact, even Modi banned the sale of gutka in Gujarat in 2012 when he was chief minister. It is still early days but it will be interesting to see if the new UP chief minister is going to follow in the footsteps of the Prime Minister and create an image of himself as an upright CM and a disciplinarian.

But before that there will be the thorny issues of anti-Romeo squads devolving into moral policing and the shutting down of abattoirs to contend with.

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