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Small but Sound

Two shopkeepers in the town lead the war against Plastic pollution

Dr Nitin Pandey


Just as the greatest battles are said to be won on the shoulders of its foot solder, the struggle of our cities to control plastic pollution will depend on how its foot solders (we, its citizens) perform.

Pundheer in Jakhan showing cloth carrybag
Pundhir in Jakhan displaying Cloth Carrybags

Statistics abound, how only 70% of the 200 metric tones of garbage is produced daily in Dehradun is collected, how burning of plastic causes cancer causing agents to be released in the air and so on; pictures of garbage lying all over our city are daily splashed in newspapers, we nod our heads in agreement when we see rallies calling on people not to use plastic pass us by, yet nothing happens. The foot solder in this war against plastic pollution is simply not motivated enough to fight! In fact, he could be helping the “enemy” with his nonchalance.

But all is not lost. A new spark of hope has given Doonites a reason to be optimistic. And this spark has come from the most unlikely places. 32 yr old Ram Dhani Yadav who has never attended a school in his life, who does not know how green house gases affect him or how the ozone layer is threatened by burning plastic, is an unlikely leader in this war against plastic. Selling vegetables for the last 15yrs, he is the first vegetable vendor in Dehradun to go “green”. “I may be uneducated but I can see our cows eating the plastic bags and dying. Being a God fearing Hindu, I cannot be a party to killing cows, so I decided not to use plastic bags” he says. For sometime now, Ram Dhani has been trying to convince his customers to get their own bags or buy a cloth bag he keeps for sale. “I add 2 Rs to the total bill of customers, most of them don’t even notice that” he adds with a smile. And of the few who notice, the educated ones, who come in big cars, are the ones who refuse to pay and argue with him to give the 2 Rupees back to them. “I then see them going to the nearby grocery store and buying ice creams worth hundreds of Rupees, but they will not spend 2 rupees on buying a reusable ‘Chinese’ cloth bag, with a life of 2yrs.” he says with sadness in his eyes.

Cloth Bags being used in Jakhan
Vegetable vendor in Jakhan using Cloth Carrybags

His sentiment is shared by Virender Singh Pundhir, a 40yr old graduate, who runs a stationary shop in Jakhan. “Ever since I’ve stopped giving free ‘pannis’ the ones to complain are invariably the rich and educated ones”. Pundhir has displayed prominently a notice in his shop asking customers to save the environment by not insisting on a plastic carry bag. “Before the advent of cheap plastic carry bags a few years ago, everyone as a matter of habit carried a cloth bag with him or her, whenever they went shopping” he says. “If people care for their environment, this is what they should do, instead of conducting workshops in five star hotels” feels Pundhir.

The dichotomy between preaching & practicing cannot be more exemplified that an Anti Plastic Rally taken out through the streets of Dehradun, by the Dehradun Municipal Committee a few months ago. At the end of the rally, participants were given food in cheap thin blue plastic bags, which the participants threw all over Gandhi Park after eating the food. Similarly most Doonites, in spite of being aware of the menace of plastic carry bags, rarely carry cloth bags with them or rarer still refuse one when their shopkeeper hands over their purchases in it. “Each one of us thinks it does not matter if I take one plastic carry bag, since everyone else is taking them” says Pundhir “But they are wrong. Each No counts. Until each ones of us wake up, the slogan ‘Say No to Plastic Bags’ will only be a slogan” concludes Pundhir.

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From: Santy! What makes you think I'm not a superstar ;-)You've made too many asstnpuioms. I have no intentions of dhyaans and meditations in Himalayas. I just want to enjoy that experience and that adventure. If you do that background check, the people to go t
Santy! What makes you think I'm not a superstar ;-)You've made too many asstnpuioms. I have no intentions of dhyaans and meditations in Himalayas. I just want to enjoy that experience and that adventure. If you do that background check, the people to go to the Himalayas range from 15 years to 60 years, from various countries and continents.And yes, it will be a tiring experience. For the first time in your life, if you try to climb 13,000 feet in sub-zero temperatures, you can't expect that to be not tiring. Whether that would discourage you from going depends on how much you want to go. Ask Sachin. Scoring hundreds are tiring, but he would not mind scoring another century.Anil as my nurse at 13,000 feet above sea level? Not very exciting!

From: That's a clever answer to a tricky qutiseon
That's a clever answer to a tricky qutiseon