Plastic bags have made a quiet comeback in Delhi’s shops.
Reason: lax enforcement of the plastic ban during the last two months.
At the height of the election frenzy in the Capital, the city administration was too busy to conduct checks and raids on traders flouting the ban.
Owing to campaigns and some exemplary drives by the Delhi government in February and March, plastic bags had more-or-less vanished from markets.
But now, neighbourhood grocery stores and vegetable vendors, which had stopped giving out plastic bags to customers, have gone back to their old ways.
“All the shops have started giving the bags again. They had stopped for a while fearing raids,” said Col. JJ Bakshi of Defence Colony Residents’ Welfare Association.
Prompted by the Delhi High Court, the Delhi government had banned all kinds of plastic bags from markets and standalone shops in Delhi with a notification on January 7.
As per the ban, violators could be fined up to Rs 1 lakh and jailed up to five years.
A random check of markets in Defence Colony, Janak Puri, INA market, Gole Market and Bengali Market revealed rampant violation.
While grocery stores were using thicker bags, meat shops and fruit vendors continued to use bags of thinner plastic.
But they all pleaded innocence. Meat sellers, for instance, claimed they had no choice thanks to the nature of their goods.
“How can we pack meat and fish without plastic bags? Customers do not bring their bags,” said Manu Kumar (name changed on request), a meat shop owner in a Central Delhi market.
The civic bodies are the main authorities to carry out raids and enforce the ban. Senior officials of some government departments, including Environment, can also raid shops to check violators. The Delhi Pollution Control Committee oversees enforcement of the ban.
“Now, even the pretence of not wanting to hand out plastic bags is gone,” said Anil Kapur of Greater Kailash-I RWA.
Environment Secretary JK Dadoo said the smaller, neighbourhood shops were a difficult lot to regulate.
“It has been hard getting the neighbourhood vendors of fruits and vegetables to comply, because most of them do not understand the law. And since they do not read the papers, our campaigns have not reached them,” said Dadoo.