PM Modi’s reaffirmation of making India free from single-use plastics has gained appreciation from all including the political opposition. In fact, the commitment in this direction was announced much before. On the occasion of Independence Day PM Modi has announced to make this effort a mass movement. As the nation has witnessed in the instances of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, whenever Modi governments turn something into a movement of people’s participation it always becomes successful in its objective.
If you analyze many of the flagship programmes of this government, they all do have economic benefits which may not be seen on the first layer. For example, when you see crores of toilets being built, all you see is the economic cost involved in creating this infrastructure. But besides providing dignity to the life of a large number of people, this mega exercise indirectly nurtures tourism in India and ensures hygiene and health to people. Does the effort of eliminating single-use plastics also follow a similar model? Let’s see.
World on Single-use Plastics
According to a study by the United Nations Environment Programme, “as of July 2018, 127 out of 192 countries reviewed (about 66%) have adopted some form of legislation to regulate plastic bags.”
Though the world sees single-use plastics are endangering the environment, especially the marine environment, very few countries are able to regulate the entire lifecycle of plastic bags. According to this report, only 55 countries comprehensively restrict the retail distribution of plastic bags, in tandem with restrictions on manufacturing, production, and imports.
So, it is evident that the world is not ready enough to shut the whole manufacturing industry related to single-use plastics. In this context, Modi government’s approach makes all the sense.
Making It a People’s Movement, Offering an Alternative
In 2018, India announced its commitment to eliminate all single-use plastics such as carry bags, straws, and water bottles by 2022 when India celebrates 75 years of the country’s independence.
Observing the environment day back in 2018, PM Modi said this:
“Marine litter, especially micro-plastic, is a major trans-boundary problem and is now entering our food chain. India is preparing to join the clean seas campaign. However, per capita plastic consumption in India is lower than that in many parts of the developed world.”
PM Modi also received the UNEP Champions of the Earth award for this policy action, among others.
Moving forward, this year’s Independence Day speech of PM Modi offers a broader outline on how India is going to achieve the objective.
Making people themselves to shun the use: PM Modi indicated that he is going to use the occasion of this year’s Gandhi Jayanti to evolve a people’s movement against single-use of plastics. It should be remembered that Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was also launched back in 2014 on the same occasion. He asked:
“On this 2 October can we make India free from single-use plastic? Let us move around, form teams and move out from home, school, college. Remembering revered Bapu, we should move out of home collecting single-use plastic from homes, streets, chowks, and drains. Municipalities, Municipal corporations, Gram Panchayat should make arrangements to collect single-use plastic. Can we take the first big step on 2nd October, towards making India free from single-use plastic?”
Evolving an Eco-system Backed by Economics: In this day and age, any decision however ideal it may be, needs to be backed up by the economic sense to find acceptance by the people. A few examples given in the speech intends to evolve a conducive eco-system in this regard.
He requested start-up organizations, technicians and entrepreneurs to work more on using recycled plastics in other forms like using them in building highways.
He also requested all shopkeepers to display signboards exhorting customers not to use plastic bags; that they should instead bring their own cloth bags or buy cloth bags for carrying their goods.
At this stage, one may argue that what about the economic loss for people involved in the plastic sale and also the possible loss the shopkeeper may invite by causing unease among his customers. Here PM Modi offers an alternative in cloth bags. The traders may use it as an instrument for their advertisement, as the brand visibility on carry bag is much more effective tool to reach a large number of people than printing diaries or calendars to promote any brand. He argues that this will also help farmers who produce cotton and poor women who are into sewing.
So, India’s resolution against single-use plastics has two prominent elements. To bring a behavioral change among people and make an economic sense out of this exercise. Perhaps more will unveil in the days to come.