Panaji: The humble paan, chewed across the subcontinent by the rich and the poor alike, has made Panaji Mayor Surendra Furtado see red.
The Mayor of Goa's capital on Thursday banned all paan-selling kiosks, and set up a special municipal task force on Friday to physically identify and evict paan-sellers. All of them, according to Furtado, are illegally operating in the city.
"A Goan would rather have a sip of feni, instead of chewing on paan. It is against this great city's cultural ethos. Plus paan pouches are clogging the city's drainage system and people spitting everywhere after eating paan and are ruining our capital's beauty," Furtado told IANS on Friday.
"The special task force will identify paan sellers and evict them to ensure that the city is paan-free," Furtado also said.
A paan essentially comprises of a betel leaf, smeared with lime (chuna) and catechu (katha) paste, sprinkled with crushed betel nut, sometimes mixed with tobacco, other additives like fennel, rose-petal jam, coconut scrapings, etc.
Paan kiosks are located outside the city's major restaurants and other vantage points near thoroughfare and often patronised after meals or by customers with a weakness for assorted tobacco and lime mixtures.
But the Mayor claims that the Municipal Corporation of Panaji does not issue licences for selling paan in the city's jurisdiction. "That means the business is illegal. Plus the paan-sellers are squatting on the city's pavements selling their wares," he said.
The resolve to ban selling of paan was made earlier this week, after the Mayor was inspecting the repair of a clogged drain near the city's iconic Immaculate Conception Church, an area which sees thousands of tourist footfalls every day.
"The entire drain was full of plastic paan pouches. It was disgusting. Also wherever you go, you see red stains, where people eating paan have spat out the juice," Furtado said.
There were scores of illegal paan vendors in the city, and they all are banned, he added.