Soheib Ahsan

        Chennai, March 7: The plastic ban in Tamil Nadu went into full swing in January. Grocery stores stopped supplying plastic bags and began offering cloth bags to their customers while also suggesting they bring bags of their own. The ban is still ongoing which could lead to an impression that it is going strong.

       The plastic ban was on full throttle when it stated. Civic bodies in the State started by confiscating hundreds of tons of plastic packets from fruit, vegetable and flower vendors. But in March, vendors have gone back to using plastic packets with little to no worry of it being confiscated.

       Arpartiban (30) is a fruit vendor on MGR Film City Road. He often keeps 1 kg of apples and oranges in plastic packets for his customers. “The plastic ban is a problem for us but we are lucky because this is an election year. The authorities implement any new law strictly for a short time but then they get occupied with election work and leave it”, he said.

        Acquiring plastic packets has not been a difficult task for them since they have contacts for their supply. “Since I need these regularly, I know people who I can call and get these from. The only issue is that since the ban they raise their prices as they have the risk of getting caught”, said Chandrasekhar (47), a vegetable vendor on 3rd Cross Street in Kasturba Nagar.

        Most vendors remain confident that the ban will not be enforced again anytime soon and therefore keep their plastic packets on top of their selling carts in plain view. There are others who still fear that the ban may resume while they are unprepared. Such vendors hide their stock of plastic packets by tucking it under the cart’s platform, above the wheels.

        Shashikumar (74) is a street food vendor on 1st Avenue in Indira Nagar. “If they take the packets away I can get more but I am afraid that they could also give me another penalty that would cause a problem for my livelihood”. He said.

       The ban continues to remain in a standby mode which is a boon for the vendors and continues to be a bane for the environment. On the other hand the ban has and if resumed will spell trouble for simple street vendors who struggle to make ends meet. Only time will tell if this gap can be bridged to protect the livelihood of these vendors.

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