As if the tag of being the country's greenest and cleanest city was not enough, Chandigarh is all set to add another feather to its cap - it will become the first smoke-free city in the country.
The Chandigarh administration is working to get the city declared smoke free by July 1.
The joint capital of Punjab and Haryana will have designated smoking areas at all public places and buildings to ensure that smoking is restricted and the general public is not forced to passively inhale smoke.
"Besides protecting children, women and non-smokers from the harmful consequences of tobacco and smoking, such an initiative will improve the global image of Chandigarh and will be helpful in promoting business and tourism," said a senior government official.
The idea to make the city a 'smoke-free' zone was first mooted by Burning Brain Society, a NGO that pounded the administration and Punjab and Haryana governments with 293 petitions under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, seeking the status of the implementation of a 2003 legislation banning smoking at public places.
"In the 1980s and 90s, terrorists in Punjab had demanded a complete ban on smoking in the state and Chandigarh. They even terrorized people with bullets and guns to get the ban enforced but could not succeed. What they could not do through bullets, we have achieved through RTI petitions," Burning Brain Society chairman Hemant Goswami told IANS.
Various departments of the local administration are engaged in doing the groundwork to ensure the implementation of the smoke-free plan for the city.
"I think this is a very good step. It will solve the problem of passive smoking forced on women, children and non-smokers. The administration should be complimented if it works," said insurance executive Ritu Suri.
However, not everyone is happy about it. "This is a democratic country. Has the administration taken the views of smokers to work out a solution? Such laws are not enforced even in cities in Western countries," said smoker Arun Manchanda.
Goswami said objections and suggestions from the tobacco industry and smokers were invited before an international agreement and the Indian legislation was made against smoking.