The authorities have found a novel way to keep the city’s traders and shopkeepers on their toes and follow the ban on use of plastic bags: keep the exact line of punishment wrapped in suspense.
The Delhi government’s advertisements under the Environment Protection Act have so far emphasised only on the maximum penalty — Rs 1 lakh, and/or up to five years in jail — for any shopkeeper caught using plastic carry-bags.
While not all shopkeepers found handing out a plastic bag, or a customer found carrying one, would get the maximum penalty, the government has so far kept quiet on the penalty amounts for varying degrees of violation.
Praveen Khandelwal, secretary of the Confederation of Indian Traders, said, “As per advertisements issued by the Delhi government, punishment for violation is Rs 1 lakh and five years in jail. That is the only thing we (traders) are aware of.”
The Delhi Pollution Control Committee, meanwhile, carried out its first checks last week to enforce the ban. The committee’s teams inspected the row of state emporiums on Baba Khadak Singh Marg in Connaught Place, and the Shalimar Bagh market. The findings, officials said, were cheerful: most traders are keeping off the polythene bags.
“We found that the emporiums were not stocking plastic bags,” Environment Secretary J K Dadoo said. “Some violators in Shalimar Bagh market were let off with a warning as they promised to abide by the law.” The violations, he added though, were “small-scale”.
But as the authorities keep up the suspense levels, rumours of “heavy” penalty are rife in the Capital’s markets. “We don’t know exactly what the penalty amount would be but we guess it will be at least Rs 5,000 for a shopkeeper who is still stocking plastic bags,” the owner of a large saree shop in Paharganj said. “We are also fearful that a heavy fine may be slapped on us if a consumer is found carrying a plastic bag with our shop’s logo on the bag, though that carry bag may have been handed out before the ban was imposed on January 7.”
About the fine, Environment Secretary Dadoo said,”The penalty would depend on the scale of violation. A person found handing out one plastic bag would not get the same punishment as one stocking, say, 10,000 bags. But since the violations are likely to be very different, we are not going to declare a set scale for the penalty.”
Under the notification issued by the government, even customers found using plastic bags may be punished. “We are not ruling out penalising a consumer carrying a plastic bag,” Dadoo said.