Place: Land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah’s office in Writers’ Buildings
Date: May 26
Time: 1.30 pm
Two elderly visitors, clad in dhoti-kurta, are waiting to meet the minister. After a while, they light up bidis and start puffing.
Mention of the anti-smoking act that has come into effect draws a blank. “Babu, janinato, keu to aage boleni (Sir, we don’t know about it and nobody has told us before),’’ says Noor Ali, from Canning, before crushing the bidi butt under his chappal.
“They are simple, rural folk, how can they know about the act' They have come from a remote village and appear tired. They are relaxing with a puff or two. What can I tell them' Let the babus first abide by the rules,” says minister Mollah, when quizzed about the flouting of smoking rules at his door.
From Writers’ Buildings to a small restaurant in central Calcutta, from the Karunamoyee bus terminus to the Dakshineswar temple, from Calcutta Medical College to Howrah station, the anti-smoking act has all but gone up in smoke.
The act — known as The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade & Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act — came into effect from May 1. With the government showing little initiative in enforcing it, hardly anyone caught smoking in a public place on Wednesday seemed aware of the ban.
Officials of the state secretariat have not even bothered to put up strategic “No smoking zone” signs to alert the puff brigade, as mandated by the act.
The exceptions: special secretary to chief minister S.A. Ahmed and IG (law and order) Chayan Mukherjee, who have put up computer-generated printouts saying, “No smoking please’’.
This is not legislation that can be implemented forcibly, feels chief secretary Asok Gupta. “We have to make people aware of the ill effects of smoking and convince them to quit.”