Plastic Ban: As BMC nets Rs 4 lakh, traders say no logic

True to its warning, the BMC took off the kid gloves and cracked down on those in possession of single-use plastic items on Sunday. It made a haul of Rs 4 lakh from penalties from 80 spots, even as many traders cried foul over the “harsh” action.

The civic body had on Saturday mostly gone easy on offenders, especially small traders, given that it was the first day of enforcement of the statewide plastic ban. It had, however, warned that it would show no such leniency thereafter.

Twenty teams of inspectors tasked with levying fines ranging from Rs 5,000-25,000 visited 867 locations in the city on Sunday and found 15 retail stores, including Shoppers Stop and McDonald’s, at R-City mall in Ghatkopar in violation of the plastic ban. They also fined traders on Chembur station road and Cheetah Camp.

“A total of 591.67 kg of plastic was seized and Rs 4 lakh collected. At R-City mall, we fined 15 of the 75 stores we visited. We will cover all 24 wards from Monday,” said Sangita Hasnale, assistant commissioner, markets.

No logic: Traders

Traders and retailers, however, called the imposition of the fine “absurd” and alleged that they were being harassed for keeping plastic gloves and containers.

Viren Shah, president of the Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association, said a number of offenders at R-City were penalised for selling popcorn in plastic tubs. “On Saturday, the pani puri sellers at Trupti Sweets in Phoenix High Street, Lower Parel, was fined for wearing plastic gloves.

The BMC inspectors couldn’t find any other plastic. So, they targeted gloves. The sellers argued that the gloves were re-useable and were needed to maintain hygiene. But the inspectors threatened to fine all five sellers Rs 25,000 each if they didn’t cough up the Rs 5,000-penalty. This is harassment.” The association has called for a meeting of all traders in Goregaon on Tuesday.

Shah said a meeting of a state advisory committee had on June 20 recommended that packaging used at general provisions stores like pouches to wrap foodgrain as well non-woven bags be allowed. “The committee has to submit its report to a state-empowered committee on Wednesday. If there is no solution for kirana shop owners and plastic alternatives are not suggested, we will go on a statewide strike on Thursday.”

He said many general provision shop owners have downed shutters fearing the ban, causing a 50 per cent loss to their business.

Bring your own dabba The mood at meat markets, which see a spike in sales on Sundays, was also low.

At the Borivali fish and meat market, vendors and customers pointed out that paper or cloth substitutes will just not do. “We have turned away 10 customers. Our business is hit,” said a meat vendor.

Amir Khan, a chicken vendor, said the authorities should have handed out substitutes instead of just banning plastic. “On Sundays, people can get dabbas from their homes. But what will happen on weekdays? Are we expecting people to carrying boxes to their offices so that they can buy meat and fish on their way back home?” He said he has cloth and paper bags, “but they are of no use”. “Paper tears and cloth bags leak. In the absence of alternatives, you allow corruption to thrive. Black plastic bags were banned earlier too, but they are now making a comeback.”

Although vendors stocked paper and cloth bags, many customers who did not come equipped were surreptitiously given plastic bags, which they concealed in their bags. Another vendor, Mohammad Rashid, said around 40 per cent of his customers brought their own steel containers and bags.

But Suresh Kamble, a customer who brought a container from home, said he was finding it difficult to buy other provisions. A handful of bag shops were able to make brisk business by selling cheap cloth bags.

Manish Ahuja, a bag vendor at the Borivali market, ordered a batch of bags crudely stitched from saris. “I started selling them two days ago. I’m selling them for Rs 10 apiece. I have sold around 400 bags since Saturday.”