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Stick for Pous Mela plastic

- Shutdown warning to Visva-Bharati fair stalls selling plastic goods

Santiniketan, Dec. 10: Visva-Bharati has decided to punish Pous Mela traders who flout the six-year-old plastic ban that the varsity has been trying to impose with little result.

“In the past few years, we have tried to make the fair grounds free of plastic. We campaigned and sold paper cups. But we failed to save the Pous Mela from plastic bags and cups. This year, we will impose punitive measures on those flouting the rules,” said Sougata Samanta, a joint secretary of the Pous Mela committee.

The three-day fair begins on December 23.

Varsity officials said if a stall owner is found using plastic goods, his shop would be closed for three hours if it’s a first-time offence. On subsequent violations, he will be told to close down the stall for the day.

“Initially, a fine was proposed for errant stall owners. But we realised it would be hard on them as most of the shop owners are poor traders. We finally decided on punitive action,” a member of the mela committee said.

Visva-Bharati authorities have been campaigning for a plastic-free fair since 2006. According to sources, the varsity is encouraging the use of bicycles on the campus as a part of its drive against pollution.

Authorities had last month decided to shift one of the four Pous Mela venues from near Rabindranath Tagore’s homes, saying the dust that swirled during the three-day event should not affect the area that had been proposed as a world heritage site.

Every year, hundreds of daily-wage labourers are engaged to clear plastic bags, cups and other pollutants that litter the fair grounds. “We dig a pit, dump the garbage and burn it. But it is not possible to destroy plastic goods in this manner. Old-timers, most of them ashramites in Purba Pally, often complain about plastics bags and cups strewn in their area after the fair,” a varsity official said.

Visva-Bharati has asked a Calcutta-based NGO, Centre for Ecological Movement, to help it in its drive. The NGO will distribute thousands of paper bags among stall owners.

The sources said the varsity’s environment cell would keep a watch on the stalls. “This year, we will try our best to stop the use of plastic bags. We will also urge visitors not to carry plastic bags with them,” said Goutam Saha, the convenor of the cell.