Painting the town red is not an offence in Britain, as long as you don’t do it the Indian way.
The practice of paan-spitting among Indian-origin people residing in Britain has irked many – prompting city councils to impose fines and protection orders against offenders. Public spaces in towns and London areas with a substantial Asian population can be seen splattered with red stains.
Incidentally, paan is sold at various shops and restaurants in these areas to cater to the Indians’ cultural preference for chewing betel leaf after meals.
The practice has evoked growing public and official ire in the country. The police in the London borough of Brent have imposed a fine of 80 pounds for each such offence committed in its jurisdiction, particularly along Wembley High Road and Ealing Road.
It is also reported to have reached an infuriating extent in the east Midlands city of Leicester, which has a large number of Indian-origin people residing in the vicinity of Belgrave Road and Melton Road. The Leicester city council recently carried out a public consultation on spitting, and the opinion was overwhelmingly in favour of enforcing penalities on offenders.
A city council spokesman said: “We are aware of this problem, which is unhygienic and leaves unsightly stains on pavements. We are looking at including paan-spitting in a future city-wide Public Spaces Protection Order, which would give us more powers to tackle it.”
“Our cleansing teams went out last year at the request of ward councillors, and used anti-graffiti spray equipment to remove paan stains from walls and dustbins. But it’s not an easy task,” he added.
Many Indian-origin residents are equally disgusted by the practice. Jit Dhanji, the service delivery manager at the Belgrave Neighbourhood Centre, told local daily Leicester Mercury: “It is a cultural thing. People have done it for generations upon generations in India and it is fine there. But it is not appropriate in an urban environment like Belgrave.”
Dhanji, however, doesn’t believe there’s any malice involved. “These people just need to be educated about where to spit,” he said.
Speaking on the issue, a Brent Council spokesman told Hindustan Times: “The police are acting against paan-spitting. However, the area is geographically too large to permanently cover all the known hotpots, and perpetrators are reluctant to spit in front of uniformed officers.”
“In 2013, public health functions were been brought under council control. As a result, there are plans to re-launch the campaign with a greater focus on raising awareness on the health risks of chewing tobacco paan and offering practical support to help chewers quit,” he added.