The Bombay High Court has asked Central Railway to file a reply to a PIL seeking a direction to re-impose the ban on plastic bags of food items at platforms on suburban network and in local and long-distance trains.
A bench headed by Justice Abhay Oka also asked the Railway authorities to provide sufficient number of dustbins on platforms and posted the PIL for further hearing in June after the vacations. The lawyer appearing for Central Railway informed the Court last week that they had invited tenders to award the cleanliness work to a contractor to dispose plastic bags found on tracks, platforms and trains.
Besides Central Railway, the other respondents to the petition include the Union of India (Ministry of Railways and Ministry of Environment and Forests), State Government and Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai. The PIL, filed by Rail Parishad, an NGO of commuters, sought a direction to Central Railway to implement its circular dated May 21, 2012, seeking a ban on plastic bags by the Railway food stalls on platforms.
The petition claimed the circular had been withdrawn on July 2, 2012, after stall owners under the leadership of activist Medha Patkar had organised an agitation against the decision of the Railways to ban plastic bags.
Demanding that the circular be re-introduced again, the PIL said that plastic bags could not be recycled and hence it makes the environment polluted. Even if these plastic bags are burnt, methane gas is produced which is highly hazardous and poisonous.
Instead, the PIL said, paper bags or cloth bags should be used which can keep the environment pollution free. Plastic bags, if dumped, would clog the flow of water in drains but if paper pags were used they are soluable and get dissolved in water.
Plastic bags are bio-degradable and its decomposition takes more than 1,000 years. Petroleum is used to make plastic. However, petroleum products are diminishing and getting more expensive by the day, said the PIL.
The petition urged the High Court to call for reports from the Central Railway and the Mumbai Municipal Commissioner regarding steps taken to collect plastic waste dumped in the drains in view of the forthcoming monsoon.