Subsidies. We need them and we don’t. Hindustan Times on Sunday reported that 22.9% of India’s subsidies were on petroleum products. We need a large part of this; for example, kerosene for the poor. But one fraction of petroleum that should not be subsidised in this manner is plastic.
Plastic is one of the several by-products of petroleum distillation. On one hand, we are watching an outcry against plastic. In particular, packaging has been identified and legislated against. On the other hand, they are the beneficiaries of a larger subsidy. This needs correction. The finance ministry must find a way to tax materials used for multi-layered packaging—in particular the kind of plastic used to package namkeens and chips.
It’s important to do this for several reasons. Of course, the obvious one is that it should be less easier for anyone to pollute the commons. Also, despite a year old law that requires manufacturers to help take back such packaging, no such thing has happened. Taxes on such packaging should be used for processing the materials after they become trash.
Lessons from a United Nations award
This column has often discussed urban wetlands and urged readers to fight for their preservation. Now, Bangalore’s Environment Support Group (ESG) has won the United Nation’s Water for Life Award, 2012, for its work to conserve Bangalore’s lakes. The ESG has been able to draw in government bodies and judicial system to conserve Bangalore’s lakes. The award for ESG is a wake-up call. Let’s learn from this award and find ways to document waterbodies that exist or existed till 20 years ago.