Something just stole the show from the scantily clad Bollywood babes on auto rickshaw panels. It’s a big red sign that screams, ‘No smoking’. And the man at the throttle means it.
The latest to join the anti-smoking campaign are Delhi’s auto rickshaw drivers, who’re now out to ensure that passengers do not light up in their vehicles. “Koi cigarette jalana chaahta hai toh hum gaadi side mein rok detein hain, bolte hain utar kar pee aayiye (if someone insists, we pull over and ask them to finish the job outside),” says Hari Prakash, who has a ‘no smoking’ sticker behind his seat. “Log beedi, ganja kuch bhi peete the ... yeh zaroori ho gaya tha (Passengers would smoke beedi and grass, so this was necessary),” says Mohsin, part of the 200-strong gang that is growing by the day.
Rakesh Agarwal of Nyay Bhumi, an NGO which played a key role in the drive, says, “We started the campaign along with the State Tobacco Control Officer, RP Vashisht, who also conducted workshops on the subject. We want it to grow to a larger scale to make it effective.”
While the Indian law does not prohibit smoking in private taxis, the self-imposed rule has been welcomed by youngsters. “It shows the city’s rising conscience,” says Shagun Sen, 19. Nimmi Walia, 25, who was often bothered by beedi-puffing autowallas, says, “If only more of them could feel so responsible!”
Kicking the butt elsewhere
* Some autowallas in Mumbai have put up ‘no smoking’ stickers in their vehicles. Smoking in auto rickshaws was banned in the city on Oct 2, 2008, but enforcement is a grey area
* Countries like Greece, Turkey and Japan have banned smoking in taxis.
With inputs from Namya Sinha