Here is some heartening news for the cleanliness and environment conscious in our cities and villages!!! Whether a gutka user or not, have you been bothered by these little plastic pouches thrown along roads and lanes, around pan shops, and well, right in front of your office or home? These pouches are not quite as sizeable as the polythene bags, which is perhaps why the users casually drop them wherever they are. Which is why too, these empty pouches flattened by vehicles make a mosaic like pattern all over the city floors! Is this the kind of beautification we want?
SUPREME COURT DECISION
The Supreme Court’s landmark decision to ban the use of plastic in sachets for storing or selling tobacco, gutka and pan masala came into effect across the country from March 1,2011.This is basically a part of the environment ministry’s revised plastic waste management’s rules. This ban is significant because this will change the consumption pattern and stem it and maybe reduce it, Polypropylene is the material used in making the pouches, which has a very small amount of plastic which is responsible for preserving the tobacco product in these pouche. pouches made from biodegradable plastic films will have to meet BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) specifications.
WHY GUTKHA BANNED
The most popular chewing tobacco product, gutka, is a preparation of crushed areca nut, catechu, paraffin, lime, flavourings and small amounts – less than ten per cent – of tobacco, while pan masala has similar contents without the tobacco. There are a number of betel shops and kiosks around us that are selling tobacco products (chewing tobacco or ‘khaini’) We can find almost all the brands of gutkas available in plastic pouches
While gutkha and pan masala attract youngsters, middle aged and elderly people, including villagers, consume khaini in the region. along with gutkha and pan masala in plastic pouches or sachets
They have become an increasingly popular form of mild stimulant and mouth freshener in India, especially because of their easy availability at roadside kiosks and low starting prices of just INR 1.00 (EUR 0.016) per two-gram pouch.According to the federation, plastic pouch packages account for about 70 to 80 per cent of such products sold in India.Taking note of a report “ 86 per cent of the oral cancer(mouth and throat) in India was caused by tobacco products, more than 240 million Indians use some form of cheap and addictive tobacco – which is linked to more than a million deaths every year.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests has notified the Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 on 7 February 2011. Some of the salient features of the new Rules are:
1. Ban on use of plastic materials in sachets for storing, packing or selling gutkha, tobacco and pan masala
2. No food stuffs will be allowed to be packet in recycled plastics or compostable plastics, recycled carry bags to have specific BIS standards, colour to the prescription by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), uniform thickness shall not be less than 40 microns in carry bags etc.
3.One of the major provisions under the new Rules is the explicit recognition of the rule of waste pickers. This is the very first time that such a special dispensation has been made.
4.The Municipal authority shall be responsible for setting up, operationalisation and coordination of the waste management system and for performing the associated functions,
USE OF PLASTIC POUCHES: HEALTH HAZARDOUS
The multi-layered metallic pouches are not recyclable and due to their composition they remain as solid waste. Thus they are causing a serious damage to the environment.
The environment ministry has invited comments from the stakeholders on the draft rules for the Plastics (manufacture, usage and waste management) Rules 2009 stipulating: “No person shall manufacture, stock, distribute or sell non-recyclable laminated plastic / metallic pouches, multi-layered packaging and other non-recyclable plastics.” The draft also states that only those pouches or plastic films, which meet BIS (specifications, will be allowed.
They say that thousands of processing units could be forced to close as a result.
The move affects the packaging of several types of chewing tobacco and comes amid growing concerns about the impact of tobacco on public health.
EFFECT OF SC DECISION
The proposed ban is expected to hit the estimated ten thousand crore rupee domestic market for tobacco products, with production costs expected to increase by at least 40 per cent for alternative packaging.The ban on sale of tobacco products in plastic sachets beyond March 1, will severely hit the industrial city’s Rs 400-crore gutka industry employing about thousands of workers.Kanpur has around 70-80 plastic packaging units which employs around 15,000 labourers, the main product to package is gutka among others Kanpur has around 400 small and medium pan masala, gutka,khaini units, with Pan Parag among the famous brands.
WHAT’S THE ALTERNATIVE
There are discussions on packaging tobacco products like pan masala and khaini in paper and aluminium foil sachetsThe government was also asked to entrust an independent agency with the task of testing the contents of these sachets to evaluate the risk they pose to consumers.
The Indian government is slowly taking action and has forced cigarette makers to include warning symbols on packets.+Smoking in public places has also been banned – but critics say that rule is poorly enforced.
At last the only thing necessary is the effective implementation of law.
Dr. Harisingh Gaur University, Sagar (M.P)
[Submitted as an entry for the MightyLaws.in Blog Post Writing Competition, 2011]