The country's anti-smoking ban had ruffled quite a few feathers initially but most individuals and organizations fell into line once the law against lighting up in public places was implemented. However, a law like this does lay the ground for some peculiar instances which can range from the flippant and light-hearted to the serious and sincere. Even Dr.Ramadoss would read on to know more!
At the busy New Delhi railway station, anti-smoking officials zero in on a young eunuch puffing on a cigarette, but hesitate before demanding a fine.
Advertisement"What fine? I don't pay any fine, I extract it from others," Sabbo Rani replied as the big gang of eunuchs surrounding him burst into loud laughter.
The officials promptly backed off, greatly amused, and aware that eunuchs in India are known to extort money from people on festivities by threatening to bare themselves.
Elsewhere during a crackdown on smoking, many offenders reacted with shock, outrage and sneers, while some pleaded and others haggled hard for a lower penalty - underscoring the difficulties in implementing the new rules.
Last month, the government tightened an anti-smoking law that had been largely ineffectual and stepped up its advertising and legal drive against smoking.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in February said one in every 10 deaths in India from 2010 would be smoking-related.
Despite wide publicity, many people are still unaware that public smoking has been banned again.
"Why have we been fined? Just what does this anti-smoking pamphlet mean," a man shouted as he confronted an official, while his younger brother stood timidly behind him.
The elder man cooled down on learning that the brother was caught smoking, and he delivered a hard blow on the young man's ear as soon as the officials left, chastising him for smoking on the sly.
Some offenders were indifferent when asked to pay the 200-rupee penalty. Poor people are generally asked to shell out 20 rupees.
"What to do, sir? I need a smoke when gas builds up in my stomach," said an elderly porter, looking shame-faced after being caught for the second time in a month.
"Uncle, show yourself to our doctor," said enforcement official Rajesh Bhardwaj, who does a balancing act between counseling, coaxing and sometimes threatening smokers.
"I will give you a tight slap if you don't shell out the money," he told a defiant owner of a cigarette shop being manned by a minor.
The anti-smoking squad from the health ministry comprises five men, who set about once in a while to scour bus stops, railway stations and airports.
The teams work from 9am to 5pm, rarely stepping out to check bars and nightclubs, most of which, however, appear to have fallen in line with the ban.
"No one comes to check our premises, but a rule is a rule and we comply. Smokers have to step outside to light up," said Rupash Thing, bartender at the trendy Baci resto-bar, where cigarettes are sold even as staff show the door to smokers.
But outside the popular F-bar at the city's five-star Ashoka hotel, a few guests lit a cigarette in the lobby, taking advantage of the big crowds milling around on a Saturday night.
"It's alright. It doesn't seem anyone cares," one guest said.
No countrywide figures are available for the number of prosecutions so far, but officials claim that the rules are working.
"Earlier, in two hours, we would find up to 50 people smoking in public. That figure has come down to 15 now," said Kanwaljeet Singh Bansal, a senior government official who leads his team in surprise raids.
A spot survey of restaurants and nightclubs revealed that most have put up no-smoking signs and curbed the practice on their premises.
At the railway station, however, it was a different story.
"I knew about the ban, but had never imagined it would be implemented. I will smoke, but at home," said an offender named Gulshan.
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