The recent ban on single-use plastic in Uttar Pradesh by the state government is creating a pile of issues for those who are hand-to-mouth and whose livelihood depends on the plastic industry.
The lack of guidelines by the government is another aspect that is affecting factory owners since they clarity on what exactly a “single-use plastic” category includes.
Avinesh Gupta invested Rs 25 lakh to set up a plastic manufacturing unit in Dada Nagar industrial area of Kanpur but due to the ban on plastic his machines have been sealed and the production has completely stopped since the last two months.
“The Uttar Pradesh government banned plastic below 50 microns in July last year and since then the business is badly hit. The municipal corporation team keeps on raiding the factories. In my factory, banned polythene material which was returned by the buyers was recovered, as a result of which the district administration has sealed all the machines. Plastic packing material worth lakhs of rupees is kept in the factory but we cannot sell it,” said Avinesh.
“I am unable to pay the monthly loan instalment of Rs 40,000 since last few months. It is becoming difficult to pay school fee for my two children. There were 11 workers in the factory, out of which 10 have been told to leave because there is no work,” added Avinesh.
According to Harish Israni, president of Uttar Pradesh Plastic Welfare Association, there is a lot of confusion over the category of items which fall under single-use plastic as there is an absence of any guidelines from the government on the same.
“We have stopped production in our factories and there is also no demand from wholesalers and buyers. The plastic industry has already suffered a loss of more than Rs 200 crore since July last year. More than 40,000-50,000 workers have lost regular employment,” Israni said adding, “Out of 45 workers in my factory, more than 30 have been told to leave, unfortunately.”
“In my factory, plastic pipes and canvas material is manufactured which is not prohibited. However, from such manufacturing units, these items have also been seized by the administration. Tonnes of material is kept in the factory without any demand,” Israni said.
Vijay Kapoor, chairman of Dada Nagar Industrial Association said, “About 40-50 per cent of plastic manufacturing of the state takes place in Kanpur. The factories are already suffering huge losses after plastic of under 50 micron was banned by the state government last year. Instead of improving the waste disposal system factories are being targeted.”
“PM Modi has urged people to get rid of single-use plastic by October 2. This announcement is expected to increase the loss and unemployment in the industry dealing with plastics since there is no clarity on single-use plastic items. The confusion and fear in the plastic industry have risen” said Kapoor.
However, those suffering the most are the workers who are struggling to earn their livelihood and are unable to find regular employment due to the slowdown in the plastic industry.
A worker, Jai Singh, who lives in a small room along with his wife and three children in Dada Nagar area said that it is becoming difficult for him and his family to earn two meals a day because of the slowdown.
“I used to earn Rs 7,000 every month, but now maximum factories have stopped production in the area. With great difficulty, I am managing Rs 3,000 per month which is not enough to bear expenses of a family. There are times when we don’t get anything to eat. My daughter is suffering from a bone problem, but we are unable to get her treatment done” said Singh.
Jai Singh’s wife Asha said, “Since last 2-3 months, my husband leaves home every day in the morning with a hope that he will get a regular job but comes back in with a disappointment. The government makes tall claim of eradicating poverty but in reality poor are being troubled.”
Another daily wage worker said, “Earlier, we used to earn at least Rs 8, 000, but now most of the labours have lost their job. Factory owners say that they are not getting orders and the production is not happening. This is a very difficult time for us as we are not getting employment.”
“I am associated with the plastic industry for the past 18 years but the present slowdown is unprecedented. The manufacturing has come and most of the workers have lost their jobs” said another worker Ram Sevak.
Meanwhile, the Uttar Pradesh government has banned the use of single-use plastic in government offices and crackdown on banned plastic and polythene items is being done across the state.
The government has also planned programmes in every constituency to spread awareness among people against single-use plastic.
Speaking to India Today, Uttar Pradesh minister Srikant Sharma said, “PM Modi has requested people to get rid of single-use plastic as it is very harmful to the environment. We are spreading awareness among people. Action is also being taken against those manufacturing the prohibited plastic. People should carry cloth and paper bags with them when they go to markets.”