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Mrs Pringle, the Richmond Road neighbour

16-17 Richmond Road is where Spartan Heights Apartments is located. This is one of the early multi-storied residential buildings of Richmond Town built in the 1980s, but in the 1960s, this is where Mrs Hetty Pringle (and a few other families) lived.

After my grand mom died a few weeks ago, my mom and I were looking though the old photographs and some of the things of the old days that hadn’t been given away or thrown out. This brought back memories of growing up in Richmond Town… the friends, the hobbies, the homes, the neighbours… and Mrs Pringle. 

Mr and Mrs Pringle

Mr & Mrs Pringle

Pringle name plate

The Nair family shifted to Bangalore from a small town in Kerala in 1948, when mom was about two years old. Grandpa worked in the Survey of India that had its office on Richmond Road, so the family decided to move to the same locality. They lived on Serpentine Street-Leonard Lane. Living on two roads actually meant that the bungalow was so big that it extended between two roads, Serpentine Street and Leonard Lane, but its address was 12 Serpentine Street (new 24). The large compound had four fruit-laden guava trees, ideal for climbing. There were two entry doors with typical trellis work and two entry gates, one on each road.

Mr Hedge at Leonard Lane house

Uncle Hegde (a family friend) at 12 Serpentine Street, but this pic is facing Leonard Lane

When the landlady said she needed the house back, in 1964 the family moved to Richmond Road, to the Spartan Heights compound. And this is where they got acquainted with Mrs Pringle and four other families that lived within the same compound walls.

layout of rchmd rd house

My mom drew this layout of the compound. It was a corner site, with Convent Road on one side and the entry gate facing Richmond Road. In those days, this was a rent-controlled property, so people who got allotted the houses needed to be connected to the government in some way.

Dr Sideanur had been living in an RCC roofed house at the rear end of the compound. He was a busy Allopathic doctor who practised at a clinic set up in the front of the compound. He subsequently bought the corner piece of land in front, built a house and moved there. He had a separate entry gate and he continued to run his clinic from the same place, complete with a compounder who would dispense the medicines prescribed.

When Dr Sideanur vacated the back house, the Nair family occupied it.

The Moses family lived in the house at the Convent Road corner. Like the other residents, they used the main gate to enter their house. Mr Moses was working in the government at Vidhana Soudha. He must have been in a senior position as a car would pick him up everyday to take him to work. His children Christine, Sheela and Angela studied at Baldwins.

With these two houses abutting Richmond Road, the middle portion of the premises was where the entry gate fitted.

The main central building was occupied predominantly by the Dr Roye family, with children Janardhan, Dhanpal, Radhika and one more. Apart from being his residence, this was the campus of the Hahnemann College of Homeopathy run by Dr Roye. Yes, a full-fledged Homeopathy college, with a classroom full of benches. A formaldehyde tank to hold dead bodies for anatomy lessons was located somewhere in the compound. Janardhan finally married Angela Moses.

Also living in the main building was Dr Anthony, the third doctor in the premises. The type of medicine he practised is not recalled, but he used to get very few patients. It was a general observation that he might have been living off his wife who was working in the education department of the government. Grandma was happy to have Malayalam-speaking company.

Mrs Pringle’s house was adjacent to the Anthony’s, on the same side of the main building. It consisted of two rooms and a bathroom, and her door opened out to face the Nair’s house at the back. She didn’t get along with the Anthonys and it seems that she was initially quite crotchety and unwelcoming of the new Nair neighbours. However, it didn’t take long before she started getting friendly with the family.

Mrs Pringle was an early riser. Her door would open promptly at 6:30 a.m. to let in the morning sun, and grandma Mrs Nair would promptly send her idlis (or whatever was being cooked) for breakfast. Grandpa Mr Nair was very helpful to her and she loved the pretty garden that he maintained in front of his house. She was particularly fond of the youngest Nair daughter Pappi (Ramani) and gave her a tiny ivory elephant and a coin in a tiny metal box lined with cotton wool and dry leaves, for luck to get a job after MA. She had a good collection of smart dresses, all with matching belts. Once in ten days, a cycle rickshaw would draw up carrying one of her Anglo-Indian friends, and the two old ladies would have tea together.

box and charm

Mrs Pringle’s good luck gift to Pappi aunty

One morning, Mrs Pringle’s door didn’t open. When Grandpa went near the house he heard a groaning sound. The door was forced open and they found Mrs Pringle on the floor. She had fallen off her bed during the night. Grandpa arranged to take her to St Martha’s Hospital where the doctors discovered that her hip was fractured. She was in hospital for a few days, but they couldn’t operate on her because of her age. The doctors advised Grandpa to take her back home, which he did, and he got a full-time maid to take care of her. Mrs Pringle was very independent and she didn’t like someone taking physical care of her. One day it was found that the maid was cursing the old lady under her breath, so she was dismissed and a new one appointed. The onus was on Mrs Nair and her college-going children to ensure that Mrs Pringle was properly cared for, and keep a watchful eye on the goings-on in her house.

Knowing that she would have to move on some day, even before her fall, Mrs Pringle had kept a black dress in a box telling the Nairs that this is what she would wear when she dies. When she did die, in 196x, the hearse carried her body clothed in the dress of her choice, to All Saints Church on Hosur Road. During the funeral service, the priest made special mention of the kindness of the Nairs who cared for this 88 year old as one of their own. She was buried at the Hosur Road Cemetery.

Organised as she was, she had written her last will and testament. In this she left all of the money she had saved to Mr & Mrs Nair, stating that it would be useful to Mr Nair as he was building a house. When going through her belongings, it was found that she had a nephew who was in Great Britain. The lawyer wrote to the nephew informing him of his aunt’s death and will. The nephew was planning to come to India to check out her belongings but the lawyer dissuaded him, telling him that there wasn’t very much, and that as his aunt was very fond of the Nairs who had taken care of her, it would be appropriate for them to handle everything.

Thus it was that all that Mrs Pringle owned passed into the hands of Grandpa and Grandma. Grandpa arranged for her clothes to be given to people in need. The furniture became an integral part of the Domlur house that was built partly with her money. Though the house itself no longer exists, some of her possessions are still with the family. Mrs Pringle’s prayer-hymn book and Bible are on mom’s book shelf, her writing table adorns the stairway of Pappi aunty’s house. There must be some other things as well.

Pringle prayer book

Mrs Pringle’s prayer-hymn book

Pringles writing table

Mrs Pringle’s writing table

Mrs Pringle, wherever she is, would probably be happy to see the picture of herself and her beloved husband, alongside members of the Nair family with whom she spent her last years.

There are friends,
there is family,
and then there are friends that become family  

Written with inputs from mom Rukmani, Pappi aunty, recollections from Grandma’s stories

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A walk around HAL Colony

‘Where you grew up becomes a big part of who you are for the rest of your life. You can’t run away from that. Well, sometimes the running away from it is what makes you who you are.” – Helen Mirren (actor)

HAL (Vimanapura), the heartbeat of India’s aircraft industry is where my husband Srivathsa lived all of his childhood and school-college years. And life for the family revolved around HAL Hospital where his father Dr Nagarajan worked. This week, we took our sons for a walk down the streets of HAL Colony.

HAL Hospital jn

In the old days, there was a daily commuter train service to HAL. There was no road median and the track ran right next to the road (where the blue-roofed shelter stands in the pic above). Train speeds were low and the level crossing into the hospital was unmanned. Once, our relative Vasanth Joshi’s car stalled right on the track, but the steam locomotive couldn’t stop and rammed right into the car. The Herald was smashed and Vasanth was lucky to have been able to jump out in time.

HAL Hosp Main road

HAL Hospital Main Road with a median

Even after the train was discontinued, the tracks remained for several years. Now, for the most part, this train line has been made into a park with a walking track.

train tracks lr

The fenced area across the road is the erstwhile train track

The first quarters Dr Nagarajan lived at was M6. In less than a year he moved to M11 that had 24 hours water, attached toilet and enclosed veranda, where his mother joined him (in 1964), and then his young bride Leela came to live here. The family moved houses twice more in the 30-odd years of living at HAL. Srivathsa was born while living at MD9 and the last house they stayed at was MD1.

MD9 (and MD8) no longer exists as it was demolished and the space was taken by HAL School (just as well… it was full of ghosts “they” used to say), but we saw MD1 from the outside. MD = Medical Department, but it seems the house now has a non-medical occupant.

MD1

MD1 home 1986-1993, now has a higher wall and gate, with an inner gate as well

The house was three-bedroomed with helper’s quarters, and had bigger rooms than MD9. My mother-in-law recalls that the kitchen (where she spent a lot of her time) was so conveniently located that she could see everyone who entered the gate. Also, the milkman would deliver the milk right into the kitchen through the window.

MD1 in lr

MD1 inside… The bougainvillea plant of the 1990s still remains

8th A Road

The MD1 road is now called 8th A Road

One of the most gruesome memories of the road is the murder that took place at Sr Devdutta’s house. The domestic help was strangled and the three children Monica, Jessica and Rebecca were tied up while the thieves burgled the house. The children of the neighbourhood were all geared up to solve the case like Sherlock Holmes but were shooed away by the police.

Another terrible incident was the suicide of domestic help Sarla of Dr Manwani at MD8. No one knows why she set herself on fire at night, but it was concluded that this was one of the reasons for the ghosts in the area.

HAL Primary School was Srivathsa’s first school, 1974-1975. He used to just climb over the wall of MD9 to enter the school. It is now called HAL Public School, a full-fledged CBSE School till Std 12, for HAL employees’ children.

HAL schoolHAL school 3

The FC and FD houses where many friends lived were on different roads. Don’t know what FC and FD stood for, but FD houses were the bigger of the two.

FC5-FC8 was one building, next to MD9. The Bapats (Priya, Reena) lived at FC7 with a blue Fiat car, and the Sandhus (Bubbly, Lovely, Sweety) at FC8. Bapats later moved to MD9.

One memory of the building is that of a cobra that they’d seen slither into the gap below the front gate pavement slabs. The local snake catcher was called to catch it.

Another memory is of the day Srivathsa and his sister Anu went to Sandhus’ house, and found the door locked. Instead of walking down the stairs, Anu decided to slide down the cement banister and came crashing down. Both sat injured and crying.

Vasanth recalls the time Sandhu uncle bought a 5-inch B&W portable television from Singapore. A big gang would crowd around it to watch cricket, Chitrahaar and movies on Doordarshan, while Sandhu aunty prepared hot parathas.

FC5 to FC8

FC5 and FC6 (downstairs), FC7 and FC8 (upstairs)

FC5 n FC6

There were only four FD houses. The Dhingras (Amit, Kuky) were at FD4 upstairs, and the Sandhus moved downstairs to FD2 from FC8. Madhav Rao family (Rama, Uma, Bharathi) were at FD1 and Pillais (Raji, Vishwam, Suba, Babu) at FD3 above them.

When the Dhingras moved out, the Sharmas (Vidhi, Rituraj and Vineet) occupied FD4, when the Sandhus left Bangalore, the Pillais moved down, and when Madhav Rao left, the Jankiraman family (Kalyan) moved in.

Whoa! Can’t believe we’ve kept track of move-ins and move-outs, but it’s nice to recall all the old neighbours.

FD2 and FD4

FD2 and FD4

The Joshis, Vasanth and Meera, lived at FC3. Anu recalls that little Rohan would be at the balcony facing the main road, waving to the other children. Venkat lived at FC1 and he finally married Vidhi.

FC3

FC1-FC4

Unlike earlier days, the entire colony (now called Tejas Enclave) is bounded by granite walls and guarded gates.

tejas enclave lr

The Tejas Enclave entry road

Large trees, many of them probably close to 100 years, would be doing well to keep out the heat and pollution. The main road has a nice footpath but it was surprising to see a lot of rubbish thrown in several places in a defence-related colony – it needs a good clean-up. And if the houses are given a coat of paint, the colony will start looking as good as it used to in the days gone by.

Written with inputs from Srivathsa, Anu, Dr Nagarajan, Leela Nagarajan, Vasanth, Krishnaswamy
Pictures taken on 5th November 2018

Chuskit – a film to watch

I’ve known Priya Ramasubban for many years, because of our association with Bangalore’s lakes, and though we’ve talked on the phone, I’d never met her face to face. This was going to change. Her full length feature film Chuskit was going to premiere at the Jio MAMI’s 20th Mumbai Film Festival on 27th October and I had decided that I must plan my time so as to be able to attend the show. I’m sure I wouldn’t have travelled 25 km on a warm Saturday afternoon in Mumbai to watch a Ladakhi children’s movie, directed by a south Indian filmmaker… if it wasn’t for the filmmaker.

Poster of film festival

Film festival poster at Matterden Carnival Cinemas

For those who may not know, Priya has traveled the world for over fifteen years making films for National Geographic, Discovery, History Channel and other major international broadcasters. She has written and directed Lost Kings of Israel (National Geographic), Divine Delinquents (National Geographic), several episodes on the long-running series Digging for the Truth (History Channel), episodes on the series Into the Unknown (Discovery Channel), an episode on Monster Fish (National Geographic) and several others notable productions. Priya was one of the six people chosen from all over India as a part of a screenwriter’s lab organized by the National Film Development Corporation where she got the opportunity to evolve her story for Chuskit under the mentorship of award-winning Dutch writer Jolein Laarman.

Priya and self pic

With Priya before the show

I reached the Matterden Carnival Cinemas in Lower Parel in South Mumbai early enough to be able to do a little socialising. The venue for the screening of the children’s films (the collection was called Half Ticket) of the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2018 was a traditional single screen theatre, known to locals as Deepak Talkies. The theatre’s been very comfortably revamped with an ambience that takes me back to the days of Imperial, Plaza and Galaxy in Bangalore.

The film is loosely based on the true story of a paraplegic Ladakhi girl Sonam. The star of the film is Chuskit whose dream of going to school ends when she is rendered a paraplegic after an accident in the winter snow. While her friends start school, Chuskit is confined indoors and generally has her strict grandfather, Dorje for company. Though the school is inaccessible to those who cannot walk, she continues to be hopeful of going to school. Life at home gets harder with regular battles with her grandfather who tries to make her understand that school can’t handle her needs. Caught in between their struggle are Chuskit’s parents and her enterprising brother who want to respect the old world views that Dorje represents, but also want to keep Chuskit’s spirit alive. Chuskit will have to get her grandfather to yield or she will have to accept the reality he has chosen for her. (I don’t want to be a spoiler and reveal beyond the information made available to the press.)

Chuskit poster

The film was great! Beautiful scenery in Ladakh, fresh faces on the big screen, good acting, music that lingers, and an inclusive story line with readable English subtitles. The film does well in capturing the day to day life of people who live in the hilly villages of north India and gives us glimpses of the Buddhist traditions that they follow. 90 minutes well spent, if you are fortunate to catch a show in your city.

Post the screening, we had an interactive session with members of the Chuskit team. Worth mentioning is that the team had many women – director/screenplay writer, acting coach, producer, costumes, editor, etc. Priya had written the script in English, which was translated into Hindi and then to Ladakhi. All the actors were recruited through local auditions, and filmed fully in Ladakh. We were told that the initial winter snow scenes were shot first and after a point the team didn’t have money to continue shooting. On receipt of fresh funding, shooting resumed after three years, and this was done with the same cast. While changes in the adults are not noticeable, it is interesting to see the children a bit grown up.

the team answering questions

The team answered questions after the show

There were many children who attended the show and they were provided space outside the cinema hall to write their comments. One comment that struck me said that children’s dreams can come true, and adults shouldn’t ignore them but should help in making the dreams a reality. At a different level, it is not just children, but those who are differently abled (young and old). We need to make our infrastructure and facilities convenient for them to live their lives just as we do. I sincerely hope that this film is able to find distributors who will take it to the masses and to our government, to improve awareness and sensitivity, in the hope of positive action.

Special Police Officers in Bangalore

There was a time when the Bangalore City Police used to take the help of common citizens to maintain law and order in the expanding city.

In 1990, someone realised that HAM radio (amateur radio) operators had great potential to assist the police. In those days with no mobile phones, quick communication was possible only between the senior policemen who carried walkie talkies. The HAMs had an advantage over most policemen as they were licensed to carry wireless handsets (also called 2-metre), and operate them on certain frequencies (144-146 MHz). HAMs in Bangalore were very active on 2-metre and someone would always be available in case of an emergency.

So on 9th October 1990, several HAMs, who volunteered to work for the police for a certain number of hours per week, were appointed as Special Police Officers (SPOs) by the then Commissioner of Police, Mr R. Ramalingam.

Uniformed occupations (like the police) have always attracted me, so I was thrilled to bits to become a Special Police Officer, complete with ID card and certificate. It was minus the khaki police uniform, but being an engineering student, our khaki workshop clothes almost covered this.

IMG_20181020_144900577-001

ID card

IMG_20181020_144815756-001

We were given patrolling duty in the areas near our homes, and I can recall at least one instance when one of the SPOs was instrumental in busting a crime.

While the Police Act gives provision to appoint SPOs, I’m not sure if the practice is continued in Bangalore. I found that Aurangabad, in 2017, was working towards recruiting 10,000 civilians as SPOs, to assist the local police.

Our grandma Kalyani

Our grandmother Kalyani Kutty Nair moved on, on 26th September 2018, at the ripe old age of 98. Today, as per Malayalee tradition, the final ceremonies were completed and we hope that her soul rests peacefully.

Grandma was one of the most open minded old ladies one would ever meet, standing apart from others of her generation. Mom tells me that way back, in the 1950s-60s when Princess Margaret (sister of Queen Elizabeth II) was forbidden from marrying Group Captain Peter Townstead, grandma was one of the most upset people in Richmond Town. “She couldn’t even marry whom she wanted to”, she would say. As a mother, her sentiments were echoed by her actions. She was accepting of those her children chose to marry, reassuring them that they were always welcome back if the situation arose. Years later, grandma and grandpa had the opportunity to help a relative by conducting his marriage when the parents refused to accept the alliance.

Kalyani Kutty young

Many many years ago

Mrs Nair, as she was known, would qualify as one of the old timers of Richmond Town having resided there in the 1940s-1970s (on Leonard Lane-Serpentine Street, Richmond Road, Langford Road) before moving to Domlur in the 1980s, and then back to Richmond Town (Rose Lane in 2004) and Yelahanka. Till a couple of years ago, she would recall events and stories of the neighbourhood that were recorded in her mind.

On life, she was quite practical. When grandpa passed away at the age of 96, she felt it was a merciful release. “This machine has to stop sometime, she would sometimes say.” Indeed. Her tenacious heart would have beaten about a whopping 412,40,00,000 times before finally giving way. Her soul lives on in this lovely Badminton Ball tree she planted at Puttenahalli Lake on her 90th birthday 8 years ago. (Read about it here.)

   Planting, 19th Sep 2010

WhatsApp Image 2018-09-18 at 1.28.02 PM (3)

Grandma’s Badminton Ball Tree, Sep 2018

She will be dearly missed by the 8 of us cousins – Ajith, Meena, Ajay, Pradeep, Sunitha, Nagesh, Nandan, Arathi, and her 4 children Leela Gautam, Rukmani Manay, Ramani Nair, Bala Nair and 11 great-grand children.

Gma obit

Meeting old school friends

Mom finished Std 11 at Sacred Heart Girls’ High School way back in 1962. Living in Richmond Town has been convenient to keep in touch with old school friends, though they seldom really meet these days. Yesterday, mom caught up with a few of them. It was Mary (Veena) aunty’s birthday, and her daughter Gitu had organised this surprise lunch party for her.

Mom doesn’t venture out of Richmond Town much, usually going only to places that are walkable distance. She is very wary of taxis, so when she does go a bit away, she generally likes to have someone with her. This outing though, she didn’t have to worry. Gitu picked up the old ladies and dropped them back.  Gitu later sent me these lovely pics. Looks like they had a great time talking about old times. Even when leaving, they couldn’t stop!

Sacred Heart group 13-Jul-2018

(L-R) Neelavani, Radha, Rukmani, Mary, Lena, Patricia

Sacred Heart group2 13-Jul-2018

Cant stop talking 2018-07-13

Mumbai plastic ban

“I have cleared my house of all the plastic bags. I cannot afford to pay Rs 5,000 as fine.”

“Madam, they are saying that they will come to check our houses to see if we have plastic. Do you think they will come?”

“Everyone on the road is carrying cloth bags today. Who wants to pay fine? ”

“Vegetable vendors are telling us to go home and bring a bag. None of them have plastic bags.”

“Will it be alright to carry this water bottle? I won’t be caught and fined, right?”

The Maharashtra Plastic and Thermocol Products (Manufacture, Usage, Sale, Transport, Handling and Storage) Notification, 2018 that imposes a ban on several disposable items (wef 23rd June 2018) would appear extreme, but citizens in general seem to be quite serious about following the rules. Unlike earlier times, consumers are being held liable for abuse of plastic/disposables, and the penalties for non-compliance are steep.

Ban on plastic is not new to Maharashtra. The Maharashtra Plastic Carry Bags (Manufacture and Usage) Rules, 2006, had imposed a ban on plastic bags of less than 50 microns. Despite this twelve-year old legislation, thin bags continued to be manufactured, vendors continued to procure them, and consumers continued to demand them.

In Kandivali where I live, when Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) inspectors periodically did the rounds to catch violators, vendors would quickly hide their plastic bags. Those not so quick would get fined Rs 500 or so, but as soon as the officers went out of sight, the bags would resurface. Those who were slightly law-abiding did not use carry bags, but they’d accede to customers’ requests and give them ‘kirana’ bags (plastic bags without handles), totally defeating the purpose of the ban. Plastic carry bags apart, there has been indiscriminate use of disposable items at restaurants, food courts, roadside eateries and home parties. Some of us tried to educate the vendors and the people about the problems associated with disposable plastic and thermocol items, but most often we would be told that as long as these are available, they would be used. Like us, there have been several groups of people in different areas of Mumbai working in their own way to achieve reduced use of plastic. The Zero Plastic Bag campaign in Vile Parle, initiated by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officer Mr Subash Dalvi way back in 2010, was one of the few successful efforts in Mumbai, achieved through persistence and education through the “BMC system”, but failed to get replicated in most of the city.

With pressure on the environment and the solid waste management system, it seems that the Maharashtra government had no choice but to authorise regulations for manufacture, usage, sale, storage and transport of products made from plastic and thermocol (which generates non-biodegradable waste), through the 2018 notification.

The notification gives detailed observations that lead to the ban, and anyone who reads it would realise that the government has made a sincere effort to correct the lapses of the past.

Concerns about usage and disposal of plastic are diverse and include accumulation of waste in landfills, water bodies and in natural habitats, physical problems for wild animals resulting from ingestion or entanglement in plastic, the leaching of chemicals from plastic products and the potential for plastics to transfer chemicals to wildlife and humans are increasing.

Because of non-biodegradable plastic waste handling of municipal solid waste becomes difficult and incurs more financial burden and also due to burning such waste in open environment causes various diseases in humans and animals.

It is observed that non-biodegradable garbage is responsible for clogging drains and nallas causing flood in urban settlement leading to loss of lives and damage to properties and infrastructure.

Plastic waste and micro plastic cause danger to marine and freshwater bio-diversity and also hamper ecosystem services due to spreading of such waste in and around ecosystems, on tourists places, beaches and on agriculture and forest areas.

Non-biodegradable plastic waste and micro plastic are having negative impacts on fish diversity and fisheries activity.

Non-biodegradable waste is posing problems in effective implementation of Clean India Mission.

Detailed stake-holders consultations and deliberations with the field level officials were undertaken, and public notices were also published in leading newspapers.

Despite the ban on plastic bags of less than 50 micron through Maharashtra Plastic Carry Bags (Manufacture and Usage) Rules, 2006, there is increase in the non-biodegradable plastic garbage waste causing damage to environment and health.

Maharashtra Plastic Ban Notification_27032018

Amendment to Plastic Ban Notification_18042018

What is the ban about?

  • The ban applies to the whole State of Maharashtra for manufacture, usage, transport, distribution, wholesale and retail sale, storage and import of certain single-use plastic/thermocol items.
  • The ban is applicable to everyone (persons, organisations, entities, etc.).
  • The ban is applicable everywhere (beaches, tourist places, public places, cinemas, malls, railway stations, religious places, etc.). Only airports are not included in the list, but once you’re out of the airport, beware!

What are the items that are banned?

Single-use plastic and thermocol disposables

  • Plastic bags/packets (with or without handle) irrespective of thickness/grade such as
    – plastic shopping bags given by branded shops
    – plain carry bags
    – kirana bags/ bags used to put food items/ food grain
    – zip-lock bags
    – garbage bags
  • Disposable plastic and thermocol/polystyrene products such as
    – single-use disposable containers/cutlery such as plates, glasses, spoons, straws
    – containers used for packaging food in restaurants, hotels
    – cups/pouches to store or carry liquids, etc.
  • Plastic to wrap or store products such as
    – cling wrap
    – plastic covering
    – decorative shiny gift wrap
    – cellophane paper for bouquets
    – disposable plastic trays
    – bubble wrap – not explicitly mentioned (press reports indicate that shopkeepers were using bubble wrap thinking it was exempt)
    – air pocket plastics – not explicitly mentioned
  • Non-woven polypropylene bags
  • Plastic and thermocol for decoration purposes (those used in-between flowers, “welcome” signs, etc.).

banned disposablesbanned non-woven bags 

A few of the banned items – disposable plastics and non-woven bags

What are the items that are exempt from the ban?

  • Plastic and plastic bags used for packaging of medicines
  • Food grade virgin plastic bags not less than 50 micron thickness used for packaging of milk – with buy back details printed
  • Plastic cover used to wrap the material at the manufacturing stage or which is an integral part of manufacturing – with guidelines to recycle or reuse such plastic printed prominently on the cover and material – includes plastic sacks used for rice, biscuit wrappers, etc.
  • PET/PETE bottles made of high quality food grade virgin Bisphenol-A free material having liquid holding capacity – with predefined buy back price printed – Rs 1 for 1 litre or more; Rs 2 for less than 1 litre (as per amendment dated 18th Apr 2018, even bottles of less than 0.5 litres will be exempt)
  • Compostable plastic bags or material used for plant nurseries, horticulture, agriculture, handling of solid waste – certified and “Use exclusively for this specific purpose only” shall be prominently printed on it
  • Plastic and plastic bags for export purpose only, manufactured in the Special Economic Zone and export oriented units, etc.
  • Items not in the list of inclusions or exemptions – includes the following
    – disposable pens
    – disposable gloves and hair caps
    – plastic items that are not of single-use, such as lunch boxes, water bottles, baskets, pencil boxes, pouches.

What will happen if you are found with any banned item in Mumbai?

  • You have to pay a fine
    – Rs 5,000 for the first offence
    – Rs 10,000 for the second offence
    – Rs 25,000 plus three months in jail for the third offence.
  • While the fines are targeted at manufacturers, no one is excluded. There was a proposal to reduce the fines for common people, but this was not accepted by the law committee of the BMC.

Who is authorised to fine you in Mumbai?

  • 249 inspectors have been designated as members of the Plastic Ban Squad.
  • They are empowered to impose fines under section 12 of the Maharashtra Non-Biodegradable Plastic Control Act, and issue receipts.
  • They have been given uniforms (smart ultramarine blue jackets) and issued ID cards.
  • Fines will be imposed starting Monday 25th June 2018.
  • A list of 98 inspectors and their contact numbers can be seen below – citizens are free to contact them to verify fines, and for clarifications.

BMC List Licence Inspectors to implement Plastic Ban

What can Mumbaikars do with the banned items?

  • As per the notification, all banned items were to be disposed off within the 3-month grace period given by BMC (by 23rd June 2018), either by selling to recyclers or depositing at BMC collection points.
  • If you still have banned items, you may deposit them at any of the 37 collection points (map below).
  • If you have at least 10 kg of banned items, you can have them collected by calling the BMC helpline 1800 222357. As you can imagine, this number is perpetually engaged and difficult to get through to. BMC has organised 24 trucks to facilitate doorstep collection.
Collection Centres

List of collection centres

(map courtesy www.togethervcan.in)

Impact of the plastic ban, and after

According to a recent UNDP report single-use plastic comprises 89% of the plastic in the ocean. Given this, a state like Maharashtra (that generates 1,200 tonnes of plastic waste everyday), could significantly cut down on its plastic waste, making it easier to manage, and addressing most of the concerns raised in the notification.

Within a day of the ban coming into force, there are visible changes in home delivery in the apartment complex where I live. Groceries are brought in plastic baskets instead of plastic carry bags. The milk man carries his big can instead of pre-filling into plastic bags. The prospect of stiff fines have achieved what years of coaxing (to let go of plastic bags) could not.

grocery delivery

Grocery delivery

milk delivery

Milk delivery

Alternatives to plastic/thermocol disposables have gained in popularity and new ones are likely to emerge. However, we need to tread carefully, lest we get swamped with new problems.

We are fortunate that the notification had the foresight to include non-woven polypropylene bags that are widely used as an alternative to plastic. In places like Chandigarh, where plastic has been banned for several years, people treat the non-woven bags just like plastic and one can see these littering the streets. There are many in Mumbai using non-woven bags thinking they are “cloth” bags. In the days to come they will get to know that these are in the banned list.

Compostable bags / bio-degradable bags (carry bags, garbage bags, storage bags) – many vendors have switched from plastic bags to bags that say “I am not a plastic bag”. These bags are different from plastic in that they are either not made from petroleum (and are compostable under certain conditions) and/or they contain certain additives that make them decompose unlike normal plastic bags. Experiments I have carried out have shown that unlike food waste, these bags take years to turn into compost in normal compost bins, and are likely to pose challenges similar to plastic (they cause suffocation like plastic bags and will block drains and they’ll stick on trees like balloons; not sure what happens when they enter the stomach of a cow). Electrically operated composting machines in residential societies cannot handle them. So being more-or-less single use, not recyclable, and hard  to compost, they’ll need to be thrown out. They may get mistaken for plastic, in which case they can ruin plastic recycling.

compostable bags

Compostable / Bio-degradable bags

Other disposable options like paper and areca plates, though better than plastic are still disposable, creating unnecessary rubbish. Handling them in a community composting set up requires extra capacity. Apartment complexes like ours, that do in-house composting would be better off without them.

One really hopes that the firm rules and fines will make people realise the way we’ve exploited our earth, and eventually lead to a reduction in the use of disposables.  One hopes this will take us back to the days of the 1970s and 80s when we didn’t mind spending bit of time sorting our vegetables and reusing our jam jars. Citizens can make it happen!

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