Eight months back when he was brought in to head the municipality’s “anti-polythene” unit, little must he have known that in a short span of time he would be throwing up his arms in defeat, no longer feeling up for the task to enforce his mandate.
That is what Shakeel Ahmad, Srinagar Municipal Corporation’s anti-polythene officer, has done when he could no longer carry out the onerous task of ridding the city of ever-growing malaise of all-pervasive plastic shopping bags.
Nearly a week ago, Shakeel wrote to his boss in the corporation telling him that since he was not able to stop the use of plastic bags within the city limits, the municipality should take up the matter with “other agencies to ensure no polythene is imported to Srinagar.”
The letter clearly stated that the municipality’s drive could only succeed if these “agencies helped in locating the banned items. But the official didn’t stop at that, he feels there are other reasons for the drive not taking off. There are just six members in the unit helping him to enforce the ban in the city and the given the huge nature of the challenge it is not possible to stop the use of plastic bags. The municipality hasn’t given the unit a vehicle to move around the city.
Shakeel even laments lack of help from the police in helping him out to book people guilty of violating the rule when it comes to the use of plastic bags. His letter mentions how his unit had to beat a hasty retreat at many places when vendors and shoppers turned on them when they tried to seize the plastic bags. “Why big fishes are not touched who are importing polythene in Kashmir?” asked the letter.
The anti-polythene squad has seized more than seven quintals of plastic bags from mid December 2017 to 20 March 2018.
On August 5, 2009, the state government had tied up with an Italian company, in a first for any state, to produce bio-plastic bags from corn, wheat and potato starch. It was supposed to replace plastic shopping bags. But in nearly ten years nothing has come to replace the plastic shopping bags.
Many in the municipality feel that the reason this couldn’t take off was because some powerful men who didn’t want the production of plastic shopping bags to stop made sure that the replacement didn’t come into the market.
On 16 May 2017, Nirmal Singh, deputy Chief Minister, had stated that the government would soon bring in a stringent legislation to cleanse the state of polythene pollution, the state government, in a move that astonished many, has allowed manufacture, sale and use of polythene carry bags above 50 microns in thickness, to allegedly benefit a strong lobby of polythene manufacturers and importers.