The plastic industry heaved a sigh of relief while environmental lovers felt cheated as the Indian government steered clear from implementing a blanket ban on single-use plastics on Gandhi's birthday.

Plastic Pollution, India
Photo by John Cameron / Unsplash

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi used his Independence Day speech on 15 August to urge individuals and government agencies to "take the first big step" towards freeing the nation from single-use plastic starting from the second of October – a noteworthy date marking Mahatma Gandhi's birthday 150 years after the introduction of the man revered as the father of the country. The statement was interpreted globally as the prelude to a bold step to rid India of plastic pollution by 2022. In any case, when the crucial date arrived, the Indian government clarified that there would be no quick move to ban plastic bags, cups, plates, small bottles, straws and certain types of sachets, instead, it essentially reiterated its committed to curbing their use.

Opposition to the plastic ban

The possibility of a countrywide ban had just caused jitters in the plastic industry, which utilizes around 5,000,000 individuals spread across over 50,000 processing units, a sector that recorded yearly revenue of around 50 billion US dollars (3.5 trillion Rupees) in 2019. Amidst rumors of the move targeting single-use plastics, former minister Jairam Ramesh of the resistance Indian National Congress party had slammed it as an ill-conceived thought.

Photo by Cristian Palmer / Unsplash
“As Environment Minister I resisted a blanket ban on the use of single-use plastic. The plastic industry employs lakhs and the real problem is how we dispose of and recycle waste," he wrote in a tweet.

Industry specialists believe that extreme criticism of the government's inability to arrest job loss and economic downturn came in the way of implementing the plastic ban. A huge number of workers have been laid off by small and medium-scale organizations in the course of recent months because the economy is plunging, with the auto sector being the most awful hit. The government has attempted to bring normalcy by adopting various measures but results haven't been encouraging.

The promotion over the proposed plastics ban and the subsequent U-turn have baffled environmentalists, who want to see the nation free of plastic pollution, and who feel that it was every one of the well-planned strategies to earn brownie points at the UN Climate Action Summit that took a spot on 23 September in New York City. "The much chaos over the proposed ban was simply to earn credit before the Prime Minister's visit to the UN," remarked Ajay Mittal, organizer of non-profit Kolkata Clean Air. “The plastic industry has finally won at the cost of citizen’s health”. Indeed, even Gandhiji may turn in his grave knowing what suspense and controversy his birthday held for this present year.