Mumbai: For 32-year-old Meena Agarwal, residing in Shankar Nagar slum in Raipur, it was increasingly becoming difficult to meet ends and provide three meals a day to her two school-going kids. Just when she was thinking of taking a loan, an opportunity knocked on her door. She not only got a chance to save her family from financial crisis, but also protect the environment from plastic pollution. She got a chance to be a part of an initiative taken by the Raipur Municipal Corporation (RMC) that aimed at serving dual purpose – implement the plastic ban in the city and provide employment to women from the underprivileged section.
It has been two years since the ban on plastic items was imposed in Chhattisgarh and yet usage of plastics, especially polythenes is rampant in Raipur. We realised that without providing a plastic alternative people will not ditch the toxic material. Thus, we decided to introduce eco-friendly bags in the market for individuals, shopkeepers and vendors, A K Malve, Executive Engineer, RMC tells NDTV.
The idea of outsourcing the production of cloth bags came after the civic body realised the high price. The corporation collaborated with the City Livelihood Mission, a poverty alleviation project, and roped in women from several Self-Help groups (SHGs). The women were imparted training in sewing cloth bags in the month of March. Since then over 200 cloth bags have been manufactured by the women.
स्व सहायता समूह की महिलाओं ने शास्त्री बाज़ार व आमपारा में महापौर श्री @PramodDubeyCong व नगर निगम आयुक्त श्री @rajat4bansal की मौजूदगी में शुरू किया कपड़े के बैग का स्टॉल। अब शीघ्र ही पलस्टिक बैग उपयोगकर्ताओं के ख़िलाफ़ सघन कार्यवाही भी होगी।#HariyarRaipur #SayNoToPlastic pic.twitter.com/HSQrsbMBau
— Raipur Smart City (@RaipurSmartCity) May 19, 2018
On May 19, the RMC provided places to two SHGs- Jai Santoshi Maa Women Help Group and Sakhi Saheli in two of the city’s busiest areas, Shastri market and Aamapara respectively. Cloth bag stalls were inaugurated by Mayor Pramod Dubey and Raipur Municipal Corporation (RMC) Commissioner Rajat Bansal. The Mayor described it as the biggest campaign against plastic waste.
Meena, who was one of the women behind producing different sizes and colours of cloth bags is happy with a steady source of income and more importantly because she got a chance to imbibe a new skill.
From rules of doing business to learning how to stitch, I have learnt a lot from this training in the last two months. In future I can apply for a job in the sewing industry or even open my own little shop, she says.
She hopes to continue her work of stitching cloth bags as she believes this can benefit the environment, “I never knew about the harmful effects of using plastic items and it is only through this programme that I learnt about it. If stitching cloth bags can help the RMC in implementing the ban more effectively then I don’t mind continuing this as long as I can.”
The stalls garnered a positive response from the residents of Raipur. Many shopkeepers came forward and either purchased the bags or gave bulk orders to the SHGs.
Keeping in mind the low cost of plastic bags, the price of the cloth bags is kept between Rs. 1-2.
More than the consumers, it is necessary for the vendors to make a switch from plastic carry bags to eco-friendly bags. For years, they have been procuring the plastic bags at very low prices. The cloth bags provided by the women are not only cheap but also readily available in the market, says Mr Malve.
When asked if the cloth bag stalls will grow in number, Mr Malve gives an affirmative reply,
This initiative is solving city’s two big problems and hence we will definitely expand the campaign in the coming few months.