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Choking Problem

Choking Problem

Almost two months ago, the National Green Tribunal ordered that anyone found carrying a plastic bag of 50 micro millimetre or microns (thinner than an average human hair for those not familiar with the metric measure) in the national capital would be fined Rs 5,000.

The issue is no doubt much more serious than most administrators may think. The thin plastic bag is most popular among those engaged in casual shopping daily. Vegetable and other vendors just hand over purchased items in such bags to millions of customers in different parts of India. Most people usually do not care what happens to the bags, once we empty out the contents, for a few reasons.

The bags are obtained without an effort and one would get another one during the next purchase. It’s something like a complimentary gift given by the shopkeeper or vendor. It encourages us not to carry a bag. Since it has no use or value, it is dumped into the dust bin by the discreet. Others may just chuck it anywhere outside their premises.

The shopping accessory in either case goes to clog drains if not found on roads and fields because it has no monetary value as it cannot be recycled. In North India, where cattle are let loose because of foolish notions about its sacredness, many cows consume the bags while trying to eat something edible left inside or beside the bag. Many animals have found to have died after consuming enough quantity of such bags. I have wondered also about the effect of plastic on the quality of milk obtained from such animals.

If people carried a reusable bag made of cloth or rayon or even paper, this disaster could be avoided altogether. It’s a minimum inconvenience that we are forgoing but at what cost?

On the face of it, the NGT order looks good. But if fines were practical, India would have been a paradise in the last millennium. I have no idea if anyone has been fined yet.

Many poor people who have no idea about the fine, the ill-effects of the waste bag and who are least in a positon to carry reusable bags, can be caught if the fines are implemented. Naturally, they would not be in a position to pay the fine and may end up either in jails or bribing the cops. So, while the menace of plastic will continue, policemen would find another means to make money.

And will the policeman carry a Vernier calliper to measure the microns in case someone disputes that her bag doesn’t qualify for the fine? The court directive in August to the Delhi government was to seize the banned bags within a week. I have not read anything that has suggested that the bags are now out of circulation or about any seizures made anywhere.

The banned bags are made by unregistered units that are popular because it doesn’t cost much for those buying the bags in bulk for their retail customers. The NGT order was similar to another ban order by the Centre. I don’t see anything positive from these bans.

A practical way would be to tap the Swachh Bharat drive for getting rid of all plastic bags. The funds for Swachh Bharat may be used to pay rag pickers who can be asked to bring in all kind of plastic that are usually discarded even by those engaged in the recycling business to be paid a sum as cleaning cost. Simultaneously, all shops and establishments and the public should be asked to stop the use of plastic. Legal and illegal manufacturing units should be asked to pick up a new industry. MNCs to smaller industries also should be asked not to pouch anything and everything in plastic.

Beached Whales

Since the second half of this year, you may have read several pieces about a fatal internet ‘game’ called ‘Blue Whale Challenge’, which some teenagers get addicted to and end up killing themselves.

According to media reports, scores of teenagers, including a few from India, have committed suicide after taking up the ‘Blue Whale Challenge’.

What one gets to read invariably about the challenge and the suicides goes something like this: There are 50 tasks handed over, one at a time, by the internet administrators of the ‘game’ to those interested in playing the game. After each challenge is successfully done, the participant has to submit proof of the success. It gets to a stage when the ‘player’ gets addicted and cannot withdraw. The 50th challenge is apparently to end one’s life. If a player tries to withdraw, s/he is threatened that a bigger harm will befall the whole family. This forces the children to opt for suicide.

To me, the Blue Whale sounds more like the ‘Kala Bandar’ at least in some respects. I’m not questioning its existence by comparing it with the Kala Bandar. The inventors of the game are Russians and apparently nabbed recently. The teenager girl admitted to having forced 16 girls to commit suicide.

However, I think it is high time for the police of each country who have received reports of suicide post-whaling to conduct and compare character analyses of those who died. We only know that all of them are high school teenagers but come from different parts of the world.

I have a feeling that all these ‘victims’ have something common apart from their love for challenges. I feel most of these people are lonely and have lost or have no contact with own family and even friends. They are depressed people with suicidal tendencies and who have felt scared to commit suicide. Once the craze about the game spread and the ‘aura’ that one cannot escape death became public, those with suicidal tendencies may have decided to play the game in the hope of committing suicide with the help of the game, overcoming whatever fear held them back.

While it is important to nab all the administrators of the game and psychoanalyse them, it is also important to find a character pattern in the boys and girls who have committed suicide because it looks very unlikely that all of them would be willing to commit suicide because someone made empty threats to eliminate members of their families. I disagree with Chief Justice (now retired) Kehar’s remark — while justifying NIA investigation into a Kerala ‘love jihad’ case — that the Blue Whale game has demonstrated ‘anyone can be brainwashed’. To think thus is to insult the human brain and not see the problem of the teenagers who need help.


(Published on 23rd October 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 43)