Jairam Ramesh cautions Modi on single-use plastics ban

Ramesh was the union minister for environment and forest in UPA-II. PTI file photo

Congress on Wednesday cautioned the Modi government on its plans to ban single-use plastics and pitched for greater thrust on waste disposal and management.

Ramesh, who was the union minister for environment and forest in UPA-II, said he had resisted a blanket ban on the use of single-use plastics as the plastics industry employed lakhs of people, indicating that any precipitate action could lead to job loss.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made an appeal to the people in his Independence Day address to shun single-use plastics and launch a mass movement to achieve the goal from October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

The government is moving towards a ban on single-use plastics and holding consultation with stakeholders on how to go about it.

“The ban will only grab headlines, home and abroad, and mask the Modi regime's true environmental record,” Ramesh said.

The Congress leader told DH that during his tenure as Minister for Environment and Forests, he had formulated and promulgated the plastic waste management rules in 2011. The rules had banned the sale of pan masala, gutkha and tobacco in plastic pouches.

“In certain eco-sensitive areas, plastics were banned. but no blanket ban was imposed because the plastic industries employ lakhs of people in different states,” Ramesh said.

The Plastic Waste Management Rules were amended by the Modi government in 2016 to extend the jurisdiction of plastics ban from all municipal areas to villages and increase the thickness of the carry bags to minimum 50 microns in a bid to clamp down on its use.

Two years later the rules were amended yet again to drop the explicit pricing of carry bags, thus doing away with the clause that made the vendor of plastic bags register with the urban local body and pay Rs 4000/month as a minimum fee.

On Monday, the plastics industry told the Modi government that any move to ban the use of PET bottles for sale of packaged drinking water would adversely hit them.

The industry representatives told the government that the packaged drinking water industry had a turn over of Rs 30,000 crore every year and provided employment to several lakh people.

Also, they had told the government that the entire plastics industry was worth Rs 7.5 lakh crore and employed more than seven crore people.

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