BANGALORE: Those who puff away in the vicinity of schools in the city will now have to watch their step, before they light the cancer stick. The Bangalore Police now plans to re-implement a rule that has been in existence for a few years now, but is seldom followed.
All the small shops that have been mushrooming within the range of 100 meters of any educational institute have been warned not to sell cigarettes.
Two days after this rule was passed, City Express checked to see if the rule is being followed properly.
At our first stop right outside Baldwins Girls High School, shopkeepers were secretive about stocking cigarettes. “We do not sell any tobacco products anymore. The police has warned us not to do so,” said Manjunath, the shopkeeper. However, on striking a conversation, he revealed that they have been selling cigarettes under the counter, but have been profusely pleading with their customers to not light up outside their shop.
Incidentally, Frank Anthony Public School in Ulsoor, had a huge anti-tobacco board at both the gates of their school. “We do not approve of smoking and our students should not watch others puffing away, that might be a temptation. We have displayed this board for two years now, since the rule was passed,” said a senior official. Peek outside their school and there are almost four shops that stock various stationary goods and also hang small boards of various tobacco products. “We do not sell any cigarettes,” retorted Shreenivas, a shopkeeper right outside the school. On watching the flood of students at his shop merely minutes after the school hours, almost ten men walked into the store to buy cigarettes and were sold openly too.
The worst affected in the city are the government schools, where neither the staff of the school nor the petty shop owners outside have any idea about the Prohibition of Smoking in Public Places Act 2008. A stones’ throw away from Garuda Mall on Magrath Road, there are two Government Schools, one a Urdu Girls’ School, another a Kannada medium co-ed school. Right outside the gate of the school, a small illegal shop exists, where the school staff, security guard and even some high school students, stand and smoke away to glory. “We do not know if there is any rule. We are merely doing our business, now they want us to stop making the little money we do,” said Raja, the tea stall owner. The level of ignorance amongst these shopkeepers outside government schools is not just baffling but the act of the cops in the area, that haven’t been able to implement the rule is also questionable.
Authorities remain mum spectators?
Exactly a year has passed since the Karnataka High Court asked the state government to verify and initiate action against almost 40 educational institutions in the city, that allow petty shops selling tobacco around their campuses. “We are cracking down on all the small shopkeepers and will also review the list of schools that allow these petty shops to function,” said a senior police official, claiming that an official statement will be sent out regarding the same in the coming few days.
While most of the restaurants, pubs, offices, cinema halls, hotels and other public spaces have implemented the 2008 rule strictly, by banning smoking in public, schools have failed to implement the same. The BBMP health committee was to work together with the Police Department to implement this rule, is rather unaware about the existence of shops outside schools. With cops in a few areas already cracking down on shops selling tobacco products within 100 yards of an educational institute, it remains to be seen if the BBMP and the police will check all the areas and implement strict action on a wholesome level.