Policies announced in haste are an opportunity gone to waste. It was in the course of his Independence Day speech this year that the Prime Minister made a statement that held out much hope for those concerned about the degradation of the environment. “Can we free India from single-use plastic? The time for implementing such an idea has come. May teams be mobilised to work in this direction. Let a significant step be made on October 2,” the PM said, leading to widespread speculation that India would take its first decisive step towards being plastic-free on Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary.
In the build-up to the D-Day, newspapers quoting sources in the Environment Ministry carried reports on the fines that would be imposed on those violating the ban on single-use plastic. But October 2 came and went without bringing any cheer to environmentalists. The government, apparently yielding to pressure from the industry — including the powerful FMCG and pharma lobbies — refrained from taking any momentous decision. Instead, it merely promised to sharpen its awareness campaign against single-use plastic.
It is now clear that the government failed in its intent because enough homework had not been done before the deadline was set. Any move to render illegal the use of such a widely-used packing material involves seeking the cooperation of all stakeholders. All this takes several months, and perhaps years, of planning and preparation. In retrospect, the distance between Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanthi was only 48 days — too inadequate to implement any major policy decision.
Incidentally, the government in its World Environment Day pledge in 2018, it promised to phase out single-use plastic by 2022. To meet this commitment, work should begin right earnest. Plastic, as we have learnt, cannot be rooted out in a day or, for that matter, in 48 days.
The writer is Editorial Consultant with BusinessLine