Plastic leaders

Delhi politicians have always tried to scuttle moves to end the polythene bag menace

Published: Friday 15 September 2000

Guess what's common to plastic wastes and India's present day politicians? Well, for one, both are non-biodegradable. They cause problems long after their utility expires. Most belong, quite rightfully, to the dustbin. Several have no utility to begin with. And both can get recycled and return in deadlier forms. Obviously, there are differences as well. While there is an army of ragpickers to keep plastic wastes out of our sight - if not out of the environment - India is yet to come up with a way to deal with the huge load of environmental pollutants that are political in nature. After all, political careers have to be sustained, even if it is at the cost of environmental health.

Plastic wastes, especially recycled plastic bags, pose several grave problems. These have been widely documented and publicised. A ban on merely recycled plastics raises a question mark on recycling, which is considered environment friendly. In the winter session of the legislative assembly, the Delhi government had tabled a bill to ban use of polythene bags to carry cooked food items. The environment minister Ashok K Walia had talked at length about the dangers of recycled polythene bags, pushing for the ban to be extended to carrying uncooked food items like vegetables and fruits. The bill was opposed by some legislators from both the ruling Congress party and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. It was then referred to the select committee of the assembly. The committee has debated the issue and its final meeting was to be held in August so that the bill could be tabled in the monsoon session.

While some environmentalists and experts have pointed out loopholes in the bill that will prevent it from eradicating the polythene bag menace, the fact remains that the bill is an effort to address the issue. But those who shot down the bill have no environmental credentials, are least bothered about the plastics menace, and have no constructive criticism to offer. Several Delhi politicians are known for their links with the lobby of plastics traders. Time and again, they have screamed down the bill to protect the business interests of their supporters and sponsors.

So here is some advice to environmental activists campaigning for a ban on polythene bags. Every time an animal dies after ingesting polythene bags, they can send the carcasses to the residence of Delhi's honourable politicians. They can also dump all the plastics wastes from their areas around the houses and sewers of these champions of plasticity. It is time to begin a cleanup of political non-biodegradables.

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