Mumbai: Corruption concerns loom as BMC creates squad to impose Rs 5,000 to Rs 25,000 plastic fine

Jun 06, 2018, 17:02 IST | Chetna Yerunkar

The BMC is currently in the process of finalising a plastic patrol squad that will keep an eye out for citizens carrying banned plastic items in Mumbai

From June 23 onwards, anyone spotted with a plastic bag or other waste will be fined a minimum of Rs 5,000
From June 23 onwards, anyone spotted with a plastic bag or other waste will be fined a minimum of Rs 5,000

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has decided to raise a separate squad to impose penalties of between Rs 5,000 and Rs 25,000 on those who haven't managed to get rid of their plastic bags before June 23. While we need strict penalties for a cleaner city, there is also the concerns that corrupt officials might use this situation to do the citizens dirty.

The BMC is currently in the process of finalising a plastic patrol squad that will keep an eye out for citizens carrying banned plastic items. But there is a very real fear that crooked officials could abuse their power and fleece citizens. After all, the plastic fine is among the highest penalties that can be imposed on citizens, with the upper limit of Rs 25,000 being higher even than traffic fines.

A civic official who is privy to the preparations being made for this squad, said, "There are chances that the officers might decide not to write up a challan for offenders, and instead pocket a smaller amount for themselves. It will be impossible to keep a check on how much money they are collecting. Citizens should not pay if they don't get a proper receipt."

The BMC has collected 200 metric tonnes of plastic so far, said V Shankarwar, dy municipal commissioner (solid waste mgmt)
The BMC has collected 200 metric tonnes of plastic so far, said V Shankarwar, deptuty municipal commissioner (solid waste management)

Easy identification
In a bid to reduce chances of corruption, the civic body is designing a special uniform for the plastic patrol, so that citizens can identify them easily. Sources said that the uniform will be along the lines of the attire worn by clean-up marshals. The clean-up marshal programme, which was launched five years ago, had been highly criticised because of corruption. It was shut down after citizens complained that they were harassed by clean-up marshals demanding bribes. The marshals were only brought back in commission around a year-and-a-half ago.

"We are in the middle of picking a uniform for the inspectors who will be authorised to collect fines. These officers will have to wear proper ID cards when they are out on rounds," said Nidhi Choudhari, deputy municipal commissioner. BMC chief Ajoy Mehta has instructed that the officers can only fine citizens if they are wearing the proper uniform and their ID cards.

The BMC is mulling on a special uniform for its plastic patrol team, along the lines of the clean-up marshal's uniform
The BMC is mulling on a special uniform for its plastic patrol team, along the lines of the clean-up marshal's uniform

Officers and powers undecided
The Corporation is yet to finalise the names of officers who will be on the plastic squad, but the final list will be up on BMC's website before June 23. Officials will be roped in from various departments of the BMC, such as the licence, shops and establishments and health departments.

They will be joined by ward-level sanitary inspectors, who will have the powers to raid commercial establishments and fine defaulters in public places. However, there is still ambiguity over the extent of their powers. For instance, it is not clear whether officers will have the authority to check citizens bags in public spaces. Civic sources said that raids and inspections will likely target traders, not for citizens.

The squad is also likely to rely on random checks and on tips from authentic sources. The state government has for now exempted milk bags and PET bottles for public use. The these items will be placed under a mandatory buy-back scheme for manufacturers. Apart from that, the government has also allowed plastic packaging for medicines, although this is not included in the buy-back scheme. Other details of the buy-back programme remain ambiguous.

What to get rid of
BANNED: Plastic bags, cutlery, straws, single-use containers, thermocol
PERMITTED: Milk bags, PET bottles and packaging for medicines

Also read: Maharashtra earmarks Rs 10 crore for awareness drive on plastic ban

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