Puffing away on campus

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Delhi University- One of the most important centres of higher education in the capital- seems to be one of the most popular smoking hubs as well, with its members lighting up all over campus. This situation persists despite the fact that DU is a non smoking zone as of February 15 2008, not to mention the fact that smoking in public places is an offence punishable by law as of October 2 2008.

Every college in DU declares itself to be a non smoking zone at their main gates. However students violate this rule. Says a student of Hindu College, “I do not believe in this law. I have the democratic freedom to smoke wherever I like and I do so. Nobody has asked me not to, till now.” Some colleges have niches, which smokers haunt, like the area behind the Nescafe in various colleges. So as long as non -smokers avoid these areas, the fact that people are still smoking on campus doesn’t bother them. However, most colleges have smokers scattered all over the campus, and most often at the most frequented hang outs, like the canteen, much to the chagrin of non-smokers. Says a student from St. Stephen’s College, “I have had many an argument with people who smoke in front of the arts and science dhabas in our colleges. But it somehow never seems to cease.”

For smokers in North Campus colleges, Delhi School of Economics is a safe haven. Numerous students and teachers can be seen puffing away over a cup of tea in front of the JP Tea Stall. Most people generally come here to socialize with people from other colleges. However there are some who come here exclusively to smoke. Says a student form Hansraj, who is a regular at D-School, “I come here to smoke as everybody smokes here. Nobody seems to mind. This area is fairly secluded and the police almost never come here.” This come as quite a surprise as there is a PCR van and many police officers constantly posted on the road between St Stephen’s and Hindu. When asked about why the smoking in the vicinity goes unchecked, the officer on duty responds, “We are here to provide security to the Dr Manmohan Singh’s daughter in St. Stephen’s. But if the smoking bothers you, you should give us a call.”

While most colleges have displayed laxity in enforcing the no- smoking rule, colleges like Miranda House and Jesus and Mary College have clamped down on smoking within their premises. Smokers have been forced to find places outside their colleges. Says a student of Miranda College, “The authorities are very strict about not smoking within college. So smokers generally smoke on a couple of benches which are located outside our hostel gates.”

The general consensus is that since the ban on smoking has not been very effective, a more concerted effort is required on part of the authorities if Delhi University is to be made a tobacco free zone anytime in the near future.

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