OPINION | The environment, COVID and our unsanitary habits

Witnessing folks erratically spit and splutter on the streets, as well as other public places, is highly prevalent in India.
By Ridhika Joshi | SHILLONG:

In the midst of a devastating surge brought about by the second wave of COVID-19, hygiene and being surrounded by a clean environment has been of paramount importance. With the prediction of a forthcoming third wave, public hygiene needs to be strictly enforced more than ever before.

Witnessing folks erratically spit and splutter on the streets, as well as other public places, is highly prevalent in India. While time and again this has brought bad fame to our country, it is  important to understand the kind of damage it can cause to the environment and also assist in the spread of the virus in these testing times. 

The most important infrastructures for the public stand, nowadays, are hospitals and health care centres. Before the pandemic, it was not an uncommon sight to see pan masala spit marks or rubbed lime (chuna) on the walls or pillars of public hospitals. However, at this juncture, any such unthoughtful move could result in potential hazards of the transmission of the COVID virus, which is causing havoc in the minds of governmental authorities with its rate of spread.

But even to consider these habits before the pandemic, government buildings, private and public property walls, bins, public toilets or even market places, have seen an audacious behaviour of people shooting their saliva without any scepticism. Some people with visibly contagious diseases have not often batted a sensible eye while resorting to such behaviour.

Apart from this, a fascinating number of middle to old-aged people have a customary trait of chewing gutka, pan, etc. and spit their saliva on the roads, decorating them with their vibrant red colour. This utter manifestation is almost a telltale signature in India, particularly in states, where chewing areca nuts and beetle leaves, is a traditional practice since time immemorial.

The speculative scenario, given the challenges caused by the outbreak of coronavirus strains has led to an increased number of deaths worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COVID-19 is an airborne infection today, spreading via tiny droplets from the infected person's nose or mouth. Various health experts have highlighted that spitting can cause the spread of COVID-19 as the saliva of an infected person can carry the virus for more than 24 hours. Conscious of this erudition, people desperately overlook the perils of the pandemic and continue the frivolous 'exhibition' of spitting recklessly.

The government authorities and even health bodies have been as explicit as possible on the need to maintain sanitary and hygienic conditions to prevent the virus from thriving and spreading. Despite the multiple drives and operations, it has still not done much good. Who should be held responsible? Is it the government every time?

A deep introspection at oneself is enough to bring about that one change that the world endeavours to achieve during this phase of a grave health crisis.

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