The statewide plastic ban in Maharashtra — in effect since 23 June — has prompted several traders' organisations to consider the path of agitation. While Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray demanded its withdrawal, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said it collected over Rs 10 lakh in fine in the first four days of the ban.
Thackeray on Tuesday alleged that plastic ban is a "tool" to raise funds ahead of elections.
Speaking to reporters in Mumbai, Thackeray also objected to exemption for certain plastic items such as packing material for ready-to-eat food items. "The ban is a tool, being used to raise funds ahead of elections. Why exemption is given for certain plastic items such as packing material for ready-to-eat foods?" he asked.
"The chief minister's silence over the issue is enough to raise doubt whether the decision to impose the ban was taken by one department or by the government," Thackeray said.
The ban was pushed by environment minister Ramdas Kadam, who belongs to the Shiv Sena, Raj Thackeray's former party. "The ban is not advisable as all kinds of plastic materials are not hazardous. There are no enough alternatives to plastic," the MNS chief said.
"It seems the government wants to raise funds through the plastic ban (by imposing fines). The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is only used for taxing people," Thackeray said.
Over Rs 10 lakh collected as fine in four days
As it continued its crackdown against those violating the ban, the BMC said its inspectors have collected over Rs 10 lakh in fine for violation of plastic ban from Saturday to Tuesday. "Our teams made 13,501 inspection visits and issued Information Reports (IRs) to 26 establishments and individuals. 972.8 kg of plastic was seized and fine of Rs 10.5 lakh was recovered," said a spokesperson of the civic body.
According to The Indian Express, 249 vigilance squads belonging to the BMC conducted raids in 5,440 commercial establishments and collected over Rs 3.9 lakh as fine from those found storing banned plastic. Sixteen establishments, which refused to pay penalty, will face legal action.
Traders threaten to go on strike
On Tuesday, the Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association (FRTWA) warned of a strike if the Maharashtra government did not allow retail shops to use plastic packaging.
"Over 1,500 retailers from various associations of traders and manufacturers held a meeting in Goregaon to discuss the problems being faced by us after the ban was enforced," FRTWA president Viren Shah told PTI.
The meeting was attended by representatives of the Federation of Associations of Maharashtra (FAM), Chamber of Associations of Maharashtra Industry and Trade, Chembur Merchants Association and many other associations, Shah said.
"We have given seven days to the government to fulfil our demands, otherwise we will be forced to go on strike," Shah said. Branded manufacturers, who package their products in multi-layer plastic which is harmful for environment, are being spared, while small traders are being punished for using transparent plastic bags which are recyclable and reusable, Shah claimed.
Traders in Nashik also threatened to stage an agitation demanding that the government should first come out with alternatives to plastic instead of just enforcing the ban.
Chairman of Maharashtra Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (MCCIA) Santosh Mandlecha said, "The traders are not at all against the government's move of banning plastic items. But we want the government to provide alternatives to plastic."
Prafulla Sancheti, president of Nashik Grocery Traders Association said, "The Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC) staff should stop action against us. The government should first make available alternatives to plastic instead of just collecting fine. If this does not happen, we will launch an agitation," Until and unless the state government acts on the issues raised by us, the civic body should stop taking action in this regard, he added.
Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (Ahar), too, has called for a press conference on Wednesday to highlight the woes of the hotel industry due to the plastic ban. The association has, however, supported the ban in principle as a move needed for the sake of environment.
Textile, food businesses feel the heat
Rajiv Singal, the trustee of Bharat Merchant Chamber, an organisation of textile manufactures, claimed that garment shops were the worst hit by the ban. "We understand the ecological significance and therefore we support the ban on plastics, but not the way it is being implemented," he said. It should not have been implemented during monsoon, when people need plastic bags more, and traders for whom plastic materials are indispensable should have been exempted, he said.
Indian Bakery Association president KP Irani said bakery products cannot remain crisp if wrapped in paper. "Products like 'khari' and toast get soggy. Plastic covers are essential to maintain the crispness. We cannot sell these snacks wrapped in paper," he said.
Irani demanded that they be allowed to use plastic covers, adding that the civic body can charge bakery owners for recycling.
Partial withdrawal of ban likely
There is a chance that the state government will relax its ban for retailers. Hindustan Times reported than an expert panel led by Additional Chief Secretary Praveen Pardeshi has sent a proposal to a higher committee led by the state environment minister.
The state may exclude retail packaging of products if a mechanism is formed to collect and recycle the plastic material.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Jun 27, 2018 13:16:19 IST