If you thought Indians were only spitting on roads back home and “behaved" themselves when they visited foreign countries, you were wrong.
In an embarrassment for Indians around the world, the city of Leicester in UK has put up a sign-board in English and Gujarati, warning people that they will be fines if they spit out red paan juice on the pavements and sidewalks.
Leicester has a growing Indian population and along with it, a growing sanitation problem as it seems several Indians have taken to spitting out paan expectorate in public spaces in the UK.
The signboard, put up by the city’s police department in collaboration with Leicester City Council, clearly singled out Gujaratis. “Spitting paan on the street is unhygienic and anti-social. You could be fined £150 (Rs 13,000)" it read, first in Gujarati then in English.
According to Leicestireshire Police, the habit seemed to be more prevalent in the east section of the city, including areas like Spinney Hills and North Evington. Belgrave, which also has a high density of Indians, was also one of the affected places.
Paan stains are a mainstay and even a distinct feature of most public spaces in India. But with a growing Indian population, it seems homesick NRIs are taking the disgusting habit and its rebellious residue to foreign lands.
The is not the first time unsightly public expectoration caused by chewing paan - a mixture of tobacco, betel nut, spices wrapped in betel leaf - has stained public discourse in the UK.
A 2010 report in BBC mentioned that in that year, a north-London based council called Brent Council tried to regulate the issue by fining those found guilty of illegal expectoration. In 2014, the London Coucil issued an £80 fine on those found guilty of “anti-social" spitting.
The Council also stated that paan juice stains were hard and expensive to remove from roads and sidewalks and alsoc caused diseases, along with destroying the aesthetic beauty and sanitation of a place.
“Anti-social spitting impacts people’s quality of life," Standard.co.uk reported the Council’s statement.
As per a 2014 report in Hindustan Times, the Brent Council spends as approximately £20,000 in cleaning the stains fromthe boroughs under it. In October 2018, the Council along with city representatives from Veolia, Wembley Central and Alperton Residents’ Association started a fresh anti-spitting campaign.
Approximately 1.2 million Indians are currently estimated to be living in the UK, including 6 lakh Gujaratis.
While authorities back home are lax about the national nuisance, residents of Leicester seem to have a shorter fuse for the decidedly unattractive spatters created by the chewing of paan, betel nuts and tobacco.
In India, paan and tobacco constitutes one of the biggest (and ugliest) threats to public sanitation and hygiene of public spaces as well as a health menace.
The issue was brought up in Parliament in 2015. As per a report in Economic Times from November last year, the revenues collected from Santragachi — a station in West Bengal where spitting is prohibited with fine — was a whopping Rs 13,000. In just six hours.
With most public spaces in India already covered in orange spatter, would the UK be next?