UP traders fume over lack of clarity on polythene ban, exorbitant fines

Neither officials nor members of the raiding party are clear about what is banned and what is not, allege traders. They complain of the govt not giving any notice before the crackdown either.

Darshan Singh, the owner of a sweet shop in Lucknow which was raided by the officials of Municipal Corporation
Darshan Singh, the owner of a sweet shop in Lucknow which was raided by the officials of Municipal Corporation

Biswajeet Banerjee

When inspectors from the Lucknow Municipal Corporation raided a sweetmeat shop `Chanakya’ at busy Bhootnath market and confiscated plastic boxes on the pretext of a ban on the sale of plastic and polythene, traders were shocked as they were never told by the administration that even plastic boxes come under single use plastic category and are banned.

The raiding team imposed a fine of ₹25,000 and seized 9.5 kg of plastic boxes with which the shop used to pack Kulfi and other sweets. A member of the raiding team, however, admitted that he and his team members were not aware of the distinctions to be made, that they were confiscating what senior officials were asking them to confiscate.

A fuming Darshan Singh, the owner of Chanakya, said that no one had informed him that plastic boxes were banned items. “There was no advertisement, no notice and yet the Nagar Nigam officials swooped down on my shop and seized plastic boxes. They threatened that the shop would be sealed if I did not pay the fine. The chalan they gave me shows I had been fined for illegal possession of polythene while not a single polythene or plastic carry bag was seized from my shop,” he said.

“I even spoke to the District Magistrate. He said plastic boxes are not banned. If so, why plastic boxes were seized in the name of ban on plastic and polythene. The chalan nagar Nigam gave also says that ₹25,000 was collected as fine for confiscating polythene but we did not have polythene bags,” he fretted while displaying the Nagar Nigam chalan.

This clearly shows the Nagar Nigam officials do not know what exactly is banned and what they are supposed to seize. One big question is government gives big advertisements almost every day on government projects why cannot it publicise as what items of plastic are banned and what are not.

The traders are angry over lack of transparency in these raids. “The Government should issue a guideline as what type of plastic is banned and what is not banned. Today only we came to know that even plastic boxes come under single-use plastic category and thus are banned item,” Devendra Gupta, President, Bhootnath Traders’ Association said.

“I deal with garments. The shirts and girls dress materials come in polythene packing. Is it banned? Neither we nor the government has the clarity,” he said showing the shirts neatly packed in plastic.

Another trader leader Sandeep Bansal said that Government should clarify which is good plastic and which is bad plastic. Government is allowing sale of mineral water in sealed plastic bottle and branded chips in plastic bags but is harassing a poor trader or a hawker. At least keep the trader on the same page and tell him what he should use and what he should discard, he said.

Officials too are not clear about the category of banned polythene and plastic. “We are told that polythene less than 50 micron of thickness is banned. But there are polythene and plastics which are used as packing material, is it banned, we do not know. We seize only those items which our seniors ask us to do,” the officer told this reporter on condition of anonymity as he is not allowed to speak to media.

Amid this confusion Additional Chief secretary (Home) Awanish Awasthi warned that if traders are found using plastics and polythene they would be fined and their shops will be sealed. “We had received complaints that traders are using polythene bags for every item they sell. This should end or traders should get ready to face fines,” he said.

Uttar Pradesh administration went into an overdrive to ban plastic after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s independence speech when he pitched for freedom for India from single-use plastic.

Swati Singh Sambyal of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in New Delhi said that polythene and plastics are banned in one form or the other in almost 22 states of India but barring Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu it is not that effective.

“The reason being Governments issue notification but it is not publicized. It is the responsibility of government to widely publicize so that there is clarity. So when government imposes ban people stop using it for few days and then start again using it once the heat is off,” she told this reporter on telephone from New delhi.

“You need to give an alternate to the people. You need to involve NGOs and civil society to educate people why they should not use polythene and what are the substitute available to them,” Swati said.

The other day Shalabh Saxena bought flavoured milk pouch from government-owned Parag milk outlet. The shopkeeper gave him the pouch of milk but not the straw saying it is banned. “I bought that milk for my son. How will he drink it. The plastic pouch for milk is okay but straw is banned. If plastic straw is banned give us an alternative,” he said.

Plastic packaging accounts for nearly half of all plastic waste and much of it is thrown away within just a few minutes of its first use. Much plastic may be single-use, but that does not mean it is easily disposable. When discarded in landfills or in the environment, plastic can take up to a thousand years to decompose.

Dr S. K. Pandey of RML, Hospital in Lucknow said that plastic waste is a big environmental hazards as it block drainage systems, collect in waterways and cause other environmental and health problems.

“There is evidence that the toxic chemicals added during the manufacture of plastic transfer to animal tissue, eventually entering the human food chain,” he said.

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Published: 30 Aug 2019, 8:15 PM