I have had a contrarian stance (and very public) on the Plastics Ban announced by the Government of Maharashtra since November 2017 – when the first announcements of an upcoming ban were made – that the ban is an impractical and stupid idea, which will fail and that it plays only to the gallery, with elections in mind and possibly a bundle of other motives, some of them being ulterior.
In an otherwise wide spread response of elation and hope I was the only one to publicly stand out with my contrarian views, many a time being viewed as cynical or negative and not giving an opportunity for positive developments to take place. Those who were positive should not hold a grudge now when I say that it takes more than positive thinking to make ideas work. And if the fundamentals are wrong no amount of positive thinking can ever help.
Like I say going for a ban in the current state of SWM in Maharashtra is like attempting a Phd even before clearing kindergarden. A number of urban local bodies cannot even be considered born when it comes to their grasp of the most basic of laws of the land and how to apply them. And we could see it well in Mumbai itself with silly and stop gap measures abounding but no serious engagement.
For those without a background, I have had a deep engagement with the subject over a long time in Mumbai having worked on the ground and with government through two decades. That engagement provides deeper insight into what works and what doesn’t. It would be good to apply energy on what works rather than on optics, which certainly does not work as much it gives excellent short term returns to a number of stakeholders, not just the politicians.
Below the introductory commentary to this post I am collating all the instances of speaking with the print and electronic media and speaking out my firm and direct criticism of the ban and a few times in panel with the Minister himself who was so enthusiastically championing the ban.
We saw elation in a number of quarters about the ban. A lot of it clearly from people who are part of the political coterie and obliged to halo everything that their party/government does irrespective of (and without any concern for outcome or the environmental consequences) the merits.
Yet others were naive, others plain lazy and wanting to see some good come (and relief for their souls tired of only hearing bad news on the environmental front) without much application of mind. And then those who would like to just go with the flow and be on good terms with the establishment; and that really is such a huge segment in India to almost be the whole.
And the media treading very cautiously. Giving space for somebody like me but also trying to show the government in a positive light as trying to do some good. And if at all then not making any critical remarks on its own, always having someone like me to do the hard hitting.
All in all within less than a year of the formal government notification of the ban, the ban has fallen flat on the more simplistic and visible of its aims – the complete stop on use of the lowly plastic carry bag. Firstly the nomenclature itself was much faulty, was it a plastic carry bag ban or a plastic ban?
Whatever be the case, this another instance of the plastic ban failing is a sad commentary on the state of affairs of environmental governance in Mumbai/Maharashtra. But not very surprising. At a time when we need to be urgent and sincere towards such a serious issue we still have time to be frivolous like this.
In the same year and time as the ban, I came up with the idea of Safai Bank of India, nurtured it within Mumbai Sustainability Centre and the program has firmly established itself in a short duration as a powerful and effective means to handle the waste emerging from millions of biscuit and snack packets sold in multi-layered packaging. This is also in keeping with the laws which enforce Extended Producer Responsibility. There are no incubation facilities for individuals and ideas which deliver.
As a society we remain unable to provide adequate support to innovation and sincere leadership (there is abundance of insincerity) and will keep meandering the way we do till the same happens.
2nd July DNA –
Speak up Mumbai – Plastic predicament: Is govt rolling back its tough stand?
My views shared at the end of the link here
31st March, 2018
16th March 2018
Views highlighted below
Speaking on India Today with Rajdeep Sardesai
(After 14th minute) Here
Times Property – 23.06.2018
I speak on how taxation by the government can be a better tool, increasing the price and impacting downstream use.
The first remarks came in November 2017, a few months before the official communication for the ban in March 2018