Save Maharashtra from Reckless implementation of Plastic Ban
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Authorities have been quick to introduce bans, with various reasons given to justify them. Non-economic bans have been aplenty, many of which have worked on emotion. The beef ban satisfied the religious sentiments of the Hindus while a ban on liquor helps womenfolk deal with drunk husbands. The big-bang economic ban in recent times was demonetisation, which initially sought to improve the moral fabric of our society.
Now, there is a ban on the use of plastic in Maharashtra, which isn't really odd considering several other states have banned their use. How would this work?
Firstly According to the Hindu Newspaper “The Maharashtra State has 2,500 units making plastic bags, employing 56,000 people. They owe nearly ₹11,000 crore to banks as of March 31. The Clothing Manufacturers’ Association of India has spoken out against the ban, saying the apparel trade employs 30 lakh people in the country and depends on polypropylene for packaging.”
There are large stocks of material lying with dealers who use it to supply goods, and hence the destruction of inventory will mean considerable losses for the holders unless they are compensated, which would not be the case.
Secondly, the present law is unclear on the exemptions. Milk bags and (polyethylene terephthalate) PET bottles of specific dimensions are exempted. But what happens to grains, edible oils, among other things. Would they have to be packed differently with this new law? Also, the rationale of differentiating between a half-litre and a less than half-litre bottle appears a compromise as either the ban should cover all bottles or none. The same holds for milk packets. In fact, curiously, a lot of disposed plastic bags tend to be recycled for further use and hence if the idea of recycling can work for milk pouches, it should hold for all plastics that can be reused. Quite clearly, not much thought has gone into the detailing of the scheme.
By moving back to other forms, there will be an increase in the cost of packaged goods. Local dairies, restaurants, tea vendors, snack shops, among other places, will be affected quite adversely on this score as business will be impacted.
Thirdly, related to the above, if the idea of banning plastic is based on the environment harm being caused, then, as companies substitute plastic with paper, their moves will result in cutting of more trees, which is tantamount to the same. Alternatively, using tin or aluminium will lead to larger imports that affect the economy.
Fourthly, according to an NDTV article “Errant manufacturers will face a strong action, but common people and small traders will not be harassed, Maharashtra Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam said. "We will ensure that common people and small traders are not harassed. But strict action will be taken against plastic manufacturers (if they break the law)," the senior Shiv Sena minister said.”
in contradiction to this, the fines have been collected from small retailers in recent past, without having any clear direction from the government on the list of banned items.
Where it is understandable to ban certain items which are creating the plastic pollution, a balanced approach to allow certain kind of packing to be used by small retailers should be considered.
It should be made chargeable to ensure that plastic abuse is stopped immediately but atleast it is available to be used when needed.
Government should focus on plastic waste management and recycling alternatives as other countries have been doing it since long. For example creation of roads from plastic waste.
A consensual approach with a longer timeline would have been more pragmatic.
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