In a bid to protect the environment, use of plastic carry bags was declared a punishable offence in Jharkhand in September 2017 and the state government had put a blanket ban on manufacturing, import, storage, transportation, usage and sale of plastic bags. To enforce the ban, the state urban development department on October 25, 2017, had directed all 41 urban local bodies (ULBs) to make the respective towns under their jurisdiction plastic free.
The plastic ban was enforced with much fanfare and for the first six months, several ULBs took numerous measures to comply with the state government’s order and action was taken against end users in several cities.
Use of plastic carry bags declined largely during that period, as retail traders were scared of hefty fines of up to Rs one lakh and a jail term of five years under the new rule.
Customers too, were getting into the habit of using cloth and paper made bags.
Unfortunately, within a year, the zeal to curb plastic usage seems to have waned in the state.
Plastic bags have started dominating markets once again, and the drive against plastic has slowed down in most major cities in the state.
HT visited several markets in Jharkhand’s three major cities -Ranchi, Dhanbad and Jamshedpur-to see the ground reality of enforcement, but found that plastic carry bags are largely in use.
In Ranchi, vegetable, fruit, fish and meat sellers are using polythene bags, that too of low quality, without any hurdle. HT visited Ranchi’s Lalpur and Morahbadi vegetable markets on Tuesday where many sellers were found using polythene bags.
At Lalpur market, a vegetable seller, Raja Ram, said, “Plastic was banned more than a year ago but now it has returned back and everyone is using such bags.”
When a fish seller was asked about violation of law, he said, “Fish cannot be carried in paper or jute bag due to the water content in fish.” Use of plastic bags are also rampant in retail grocery shops in the city.
In 2017-18, Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) had set up 11 enforcement teams to impose the ban in 53 wards of the state capital.
The teams were active for few months. They conducted several raids in malls and markets collected fines. However, such drives are hardly visible anymore.
“We admit the drives partially slowed down in initial months of this year. But an extensive drive has been started and is continuing for the last two months. In the past two months, we have collected Rs 1.40 lakh fine against use of plastic,” said RMC city manager Saurav Verma, who is leading the enforcement drive in Ranchi.
He said the use of plastic has extensively declined in malls and shopping complexes, which signalled success of the ban.
Plastic carry bags are still in use in Dhanbad, even as the Dhanbad Municipal Corporation (DMC) fines Rs 50 on consumers found carrying plastic bags. Traders and wholesalers are fined between Rs 5000 and Rs 50,000.
“Despite a strict ban, reports of poly bag use come from different parts of the city. But we are strict on it and flying squads crack the whip when we get such reports,” said Dhanbad town commissioner Chandramohan Kashyap.
DMC has already set up flying squads in its all five circles of Dhanbad, Jharia,Sindri, Katras, Chhatand for regular monitoring of the ban.
This year the DMC has sealed two plastic godowns in Jharia and Saraikhela areas of district. DMC additional town commissioner Sandeep Kumar said they have seized 130 kgs of plastic from wholesalers and retailers.
The scene is not much different in Jamshedpur. Even as authorities claim that they had implemented the ban efficiently and action was being taken whenever the authorities got information about usage of plastic bags in markets, local shopkeepers have started using plastic bags regularly and with ease.
City manager of Jugsalai municipality, Abhishekh Rahul said, “We have been implementing the ban strictly. However, no raid was conducted at a large scale last month. Shopkeepers are not using banned polythene bags as they are still afraid of being fined. Only a couple of shopkeepers have been using it secretly and action would be taken against them.”
Notified Area Committees (NAC) in Jamshedpur, Jugsalai and Mango have imposed the ban strictly.