With the Supreme Court stay on the Himachal High Courts orders, to ban the sale of food items packed in non-biodegradable packs, except essential items as milk and edible oil, coming to end on February 13, the stock of the plastic packed foods have begun to run out from the retail shops across the state.
Due to uncertainty over the issue, small retailers are avoiding storing junk food packed in non-biodegradable packaging material.
The Supreme Court has stayed the decision of the Himachal Pradesh high court to ban the sale of food items packed in non-biodegradable packs, except essential items as milk and edible oil till February 13.
Traders' organizations and some private firms dealing in food items had moved the Supreme Court, seeking relief from the ban.
Shimla Beopar Mandal president Inderjeet Singh said they would have welcomed the decision of ban if it was across the country. “Why enforce the ban in Himachal Pradesh only,” he said, adding that the state being a tourist destination, the ban would not serve its purpose.
He said he had full faith in the Supreme Court that it would suspend the ban and give a permanent relief to the traders of the state.
“The Supreme Court has stayed the decision of the Himachal Pradesh high court to ban the sale of food items packed in non-biodegradable packs, except essential items as milk and edible oil,” he added.
He said there was a long list of decisions relating to ban and stay, creating a panic among the retailers. Retailers have stopped purchasing packed food from wholesalers,who have also stopped storage of plastic-packed food items which would come under ban blanket.
“Earlier we have got relief from the high court. But now the risk to keep big stocks is too high,” said Bablu Gupta, a retailer in Sanjauli Bazar.
“Due to shortage the sale of junk food has dropped by nearly 40 per cent in Shimla alone,” said Rattan Agarwal,a wholesale merchant.
Earlier on January 10, 2013, the Himachal Pradesh high court directed the state government to ban food items packed in non-biodegradable packs, except essential items like milk and edible oil.
The state government issued a notification to ban plastic packed food items from April 1, 2013. The government also sought three months' time till July 2 to implement the order.
Seeking relief, the Sanyukt Beopar Mandal of Himachal and the Indian Biscuit Manufacturers Association and others had moved Himachal Pradesh high court and it extended the banning period till September 3.
On December 26, the court vacated its earlier stay and asked the government to go ahead with its notification to ban plastic-packed eatables, exempting drinking water, edible oil and milk from the ban.
The court also asked the state government to ensure blanket ban on these items before March 31.
Now, with less than 10 days left, towns in Himachal have begun to run short of junk food packed in non-biodegradable packing.
Before banning, the high court in 2010 had constituted a committee to identify food items that are sold in non-biodegradable packets.
The then additional chief secretary, Sarojini Ganju Thakur, headed the committee, but its report was not convincing. Subsequently, the court constituted another committee asking it to draw a list of food items packed in non-biodegradable packs and submit its report on November 30, 2012. This committee too did not submit its report on time.
The committee identified chips, wafers, biscuits, namkeen, candy, chewing gum, ice-cream, chocolates, noodles, sugary cereals, cornflakes, pizzas, burgers, patties and French fries.
With the state high court banning the sale and storage of non-essential food items in polythene and other non-biodegradable packets, a company has launched food products in paper packets made of biodegradable material.