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Betel ban, officially

Bhubaneswar, April 28: If director of agriculture and food production Arabinda Padhee has his way, government offices and its walls would be without paan stains.

Padhee, who joined office on April 15, has imposed a ban on “consuming intoxicants such as paan (betel), beedis, cigarettes and tobacco” on office premises.

The director, who enforced the rule under the Orissa Government Servants’ Conduct Rules, said the benefits would be many. “Employees can save money, would be free of several ailments and the rule will also improve the work environment,” said the IAS officer.

The director has also taken steps to evict the makeshift kiosks selling such stuff on the office premises.

For now, the ban seems to be working. When this correspondent visited the department offices, the 300-odd employees were trying to abstain from spitting. The walls, though, remain splatter with the stains, thanks to them being used as spittoons for years.

“Some find it difficult not to spit,” said Kailash, a peon. “They go out and have their paans and tobacco.” But they do not dare to indulge in their addiction, at least not in the open, he said.

Pointing to the tiles at the main entrance with pictures of gods and goddesses at the main entrance, Kumar said these were put to prevent people from spitting on the walls.

At least four employees who ignored the circular and consumed the banned substances have been cautioned. “We plan to impose the rule on our 9,000 employees in the state,” added Padhee.

Some, like grade IV employee Bilasini Nanda, said the ban had instilled a sense of discipline. But others, such as a senior typist, complained he gets frequent headache and feels lethargic without his hourly “deluxe paan”. Requesting anonymity, he said: “I have to go out three or four times for my paan. I won’t abandon my habit even if there is departmental action.”

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