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It has been an eventful year for me as a President of AIPMA. At the outset, I would like to welcome the new team who will take over from next month. Reflecting back on the year that passed so fast I take this opportunity to share few thoughts on events and what lies ahead for the plastic processing industry.
India’s economy seems to be on a sound footing with GDP growth indicating trend for the future. Although, global disruptions on trade, rising crude prices and depreciating Rupee are reasons to be concerned, positive results of the structural reforms provide confidence for short and long term “India story”. While most segments of the economy are on growth path, the eco system for the plastic processing sector has undermined it’s growth. The scenario is unlikely to change until clarity and commitment on policy is evident.
It was a year of disruption for India’s economy resulting from some bold measures taken by the Government for course correction and for removal of ailing factors that has been hampering healthy growth of the economy for over five decades now. It was indeed a difficult period particularly for MSME segment. Prompt actions on the part of the Government to address lacunas in the digital framework and rationalization of rates has helped industry to be back on the growth track and benefit from streamlined tax regime across India. .
As the dust was settling down on economic reforms, the industry was faced with new challenge of abrupt banning of certain products considered to be environment unfriendly. A very surprising move by the Government of India to host World environment day on 5th June, 2018, with central theme of “Beat plastic Pollution” on behalf of UNEP has sent a negative signal to the industry which in fact is growth enabler of almost all segments of the economy. The larger picture on the canvas is at best bleak as the lead taken by Maharashtra to ban plastic is spreading like a wild fire throughout India. As I write this, twenty four states have declared some sort of ban on plastic products. The new investments in the sector are put on hold and sense of insecurity prevails amongst entrepreneurs.
Government’s declaration to do away with single use plastics by year 2022 and response to address plastic pollution seen around in the environment with new regime of controls and stringent compliance requirements is leading towards a new normal. It will not be business as usual for the industry. The freedom enjoyed till date will be replaced new set of responsibilities for each stake holder. Unfortunately, neither the authorities nor the industry has clarity on the framework which can be imposed to yield results. Any haste in the direction would be self-defeating at best.
As a head of the apex trade body, I have been closely witnessing the scenario from perspective of policy makers, media, fellow industry members and common man. The experience has been painful and unsettling at best. One wonders if we are inching towards the objective of containing plastic pollution or the Ban in reality is a solution in search of new problems? Whether new concepts like EPR and Single Use Plastics championed are relevant in copy paste version from western world in India’s context. These misplaced concepts if implemented without appropriate consideration would have far reaching economic repercussions on the industry and on the consumers without achieving intended objectives. For example, as of now there is no clarity on what constitutes a single use plastic. Definitions have emerged from within industry which needs to be debated to ensure that they are not biased and has consideration for long term interest of the country, it’s social fabric and the industry. It would be most apt that Government proposes a definition and brings it in public domain for debate before embarking on their agenda of doing away with single use plastic.
Depriving the nation usage of most efficient materials is contrary to aspirations of the society racing to climb the ladder of economic development. If it is not plastic, something else will be required for fulfilling the consumption and if allowed to do so without understanding Environment Impact Assessment, we will end up in a bigger mess. Why then single out PLASTIC. Shouldn’t we, the industry be asking this question in one voice?
AIPMA has been proactive on the issue and is committed to creating social awareness on the issue. No magic will solve the issue. It is time for policy makers to rise to the challenge and come up with rationalized time line for implementation of plastic waste management. This in my opinion will be the way forward.
Lastly, I would like to thank the plastic fraternity, authorities, my colleagues and secretariat at AIPMA for their unconditional support enabling me to take up the cause of the industry in the capacity of President of AIPMA.