Corporators criticised the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) administration at the general assembly on Thursday, for its failure to clear doubts on the plastic ban. They wanted to know whey they were not taken into confidence before the government decided on the ban. They also questioned the decision to exempt manufacturers, and claimed small retailers are going out of business.

The Mayor had called for a special meeting of the general assembly on Thursday after the issue was brought up multiple times on the floor of the House.

Shiv Sena leader and standing committee chairman Yashwant Jadhav said there is a lack of clarity on what is banned and what is not, and what are the penalties.

“The government should have taken measures to create awareness before the implementation. We were completely bypassed in the process. We should have been taken into confidence. The State must now allow corporators to utilise their funds to distribute cloth bags among people,” Mr. Jadhav said.

Samajwadi Party leader Rais Shaikh likened the ban to demonetisation. “How many common citizens carry Rs. 5,000 in cash in their pockets these days? The law committee had got a good proposal on reducing fines for using banned plastic items, but it was not passed. The current fines are too stringent. In fact, more funds need to be spent on awareness,” Mr. Shaikh said.

Leader of Opposition Ravi Raja said the plastic ban will bring back the days of licence Raj. “The inspectors empowered with enforcing the ban will try to extort money from people even for possessing a single piece of plastic. On the other hand, manufacturers have been exempted. You were quick to introduce the ban, but did not do enough for awareness,” he said.

BJP leader Manoj Kotak raised questions on why industrial packaging has been exempted, while NCP leader Rakhi Jadhav said sellers of meat and fish are badly hit and an exemption be made for them.

The government had, in March, issued a notification banning the manufacturing, sale, use of all single-use plastic bags and an array of plastic products. The ban invites a penalty between Rs. 5,000 and Rs. 25,000.

The BMC has so far collected 3,035 kg plastic and imposed fines worth Rs. 36.5 lakh since June 23. Offenders who do not cough up fines are being prosecuted, and inspection reports have been filed against 127 of them.

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