All posts by Indrani Bhattacharya

Fighting the plastic bag menace: A story of courage and action

Plastic bag menace

Recently I spent nearly six months at a small township of Shimla district of Himachal Pradesh. I was amazed to find that the use of plastic bags was totally banned there. It directed me to think about the state I belong to. Why could we not enforce such rules and punishments there? Nearly, 25 years back, while teaching at a school at Nagpur, we established a nature club – The Basilican -for to make students aware of the enviornment.


We generally take the most precious gifts of nature for granted. Do we ever think that the supply of air that we breathe, the water we use, the food we eat could get exhausted one, we go on assuming that the bounties of nature are inexhaustible. If we can sow the seed in young minds, our future generation, about the wise use of nature’s gift, there is a hope for saving our mother Earth.


Our mission started with the interaction amongst the nature clubs of different schools through competitions on debate, painting, singing, staging drama, nukkad natak

Interestingly I found a similar code while visiting the islands of Andaman, very strict rules helped the Union Territory keep the beaches very clean as we find in some of the foreign countries, a treat to the eyes.


Now, in Kolkata, I witnessed the anti- plastic bag campaign, though without any result. As a child, I used to read and hear that ‘what Bengal thinks today, the rest of the country thinks tomorrow.’ In practice, I am unable to find this to be true. The awareness program, we have started nearly 25 years back in a small city of Maharashtra is unable to set its foot among the so-called educated and civilized citizens of Kolkata. They insist the shopkeepers for plastic bags, sometimes even double- otherwise they prefer to walk out without buying from that shop or else engage themselves in unending argument.


I loved it when I visited Nicco Park and Science City, as they do not allow plastic bags in. Now, recently all the shopping malls have started charging for carry bags. It amuses me to watch people not walking out of the shops, rather they prefer to carry their own bags to save a penny or so.


The housing complex I stay in, once faced the problem of water logging, especially during monsoons. Exchange of hot talks could always be heard between the maintenance authority and the residents, though the main reason behind the water logging was plastis bags.


Once, after a heavy shower, I made up my mind, accumulated my courage and set forth. I folded my salwar and went out in knee deep water with a stick in my hand and started clearing the mouths of the drains by collecting the plastic bags. As expected, I became a laughing stock, but I didn’t mind. The water cleared off within fifteen minutes. Next day, when it rained again, I found it easier to carry on the work and to my surprise, I found a small girl with a smiling face asking me, ‘Aunty, can I help you?’ She had a paper boat on her little palm. I remembered my childhood days, when we were free to play in the rain water. Once, I got drowned too, in a drain while holding the competition to jump across the over flown nallah. I was worried about the child and asked her, ‘Your mom will not scold you?’ She didn’t bother to answer. We floated the paper boat together and went on with our job. To our surprise, we enjoyed the work very much. Next day, there were three more young girls and the group went on getting stronger day by day. The housing complex was free of water logging within a few days. People did not laugh or talk anymore. The self appointed cleaning society, consisting only of female members earned respect from the residents. The complex now stands neat and clean and free of mosquitoes.