November 19, 2012
Since I had a holiday my brother phoned me to give us a surprise. He said he would join us for lunch. Before deciding what to cook, my wife told me to ask him what he would like for lunch. My wife seldom asks this question even if the Prime Minister is invited for dinner. But she asked this time because she likes her brother-in-law very much though she likes nobody else from the human race. My brother is generous to her. He always gifts her something expensive because he does not want to hear that he is bad. Let the whole world call him bad, he does not care, but not his sister-in-law as he is aware that she may not call him so once but every day.
He said he wanted fish and mentioned expensive names like pompret, silver fish, prawns, squids etc. I asked my wife to give me a gunny bag to bring fish as plastics are banned. She said it is very difficult to find it. She gave me four plastic carry bags. Instead of taking an auto to the market I decided to take a bus because auto these days is more expensive than tiger prawns. The main market which is only two kilometers away was where I wanted to go since expensive things are comparatively cheaper there. In between we find so many local fish markets. But we hardly find fish there.
After a few stops, suddenly the bus was stopped by some people. The bus driver was told to park the bus. Around ten people alighted from four cars and boarded the bus. All these tight faced men looked serious. I thought daylight robbery had entered my city also. Later I came to know that they are officers from corporation, environment department and from police. Thank God it was not ordinary daylight robbery. But some sort of Government sponsored robbery. They posed as if they had come on some important duty.
“Dear all, as you are aware, plastics are banned. We have come to seize plastics,” said their chief.
“You were doing it in shops. Why in the bus? You are inconveniencing us. This is a wrong place,” said one of the passengers.
“Stop it. Law does not stipulate that we should not do it in the bus. We can do anything anywhere. We are authorized to do it. So we are going to search the bus and every person”. The officer said angrily.
While some of the officers stood around the bus, four officers started searching us. They found so many things including spades, blades, knives, fish, meat, vegetables, and what not. But all in carry bags. No one carries these things in a suitcase anyway.
People carrying anything and everything in plastic bags were called outside the bus. All went except me because I carried nothing in carry bag. But they came and searched me. When they found four empty carry bags in my pocket, they looked at me as if I were a terrorist. People stood like prisoners outside the bus carrying their things in carry bags.
“Dear all, I request you all to take out the goods from your carry bags and put the carry bags here”. ‘Here’ he meant the pavement. I did not understand what sort of corporation officers were they.
Everybody followed one by one. They threw the carry bags on the road and were allowed to go into the bus carrying their goods in hands. It was funny to watch people carrying beans, tomatoes, fish and so many things in hand. It was embarrassing too. The person who was carrying five kgs of onion had to board and get down the bus ten times. A lady who had sardines with her carried them by catching the tail. she too had too many trips. All must have kept the things on the floor of the bus. Where else? And in what else?
I was told to stand aside. I thought I am the least in breaking the law. But that was not the case unfortunately.
“Dear Gentleman. Do you kow you have commited the highest offence by carrying the empty carry bags?” The chief said.
“ Why the highest offence? Empty or full, all carry bags are same.”
“But I have a doubt that you are carrying them for sale”
“But by selling four carry bags, I can get only four rupees”
“It is not how many bags you carry or how much it fetches does matter. What matters is- You intended to sell the bags. You are a seller of bags….”
“Its bad. Very bad. And you people are really mad. If you wanna get rid of plastic, close the plastic factories. In a month plastic will not be there in the market. And if you are really in a hurry, please raid the plastic shops. Do not punish the innocent. First tell us what is the substitute material. You can prohibit anything on earth including food because you are policy makers. But find a substitute first.”
He stopped me from talking further. “You are talking too much just because I allowed you to talk. Our duty is to seize the plastic from everywhere other than from factories. Do not tell us to go to factories since we are not told to do so. Keep in mind this is an enviornment issue”.
“Your government allowed the soil to be taken in thousands of tonnes and exported it to china. Then there was no enviornment.It spoilt the enviornment more than what you perceive plastic is doing”.
“We do what we are told to do. Your argument is only good for a television debate. Please pay a fine. Please do not argue. Plain clothed policemen are here. If I tell them they can charge you and take ‘plain’ action which may hurt you. They can even give you aeroplane treatment which is very famous here”
“I do not care; tell them to take those people who are carrying spades blades and all. They are more dangerous than plastics. Who knows, who are they?” I think my resistance here was a turning point. It seemed their temper was coming down.
“Even if they are criminals or terrorists we do not catch them. We are on a special duty. ‘Operation Plastic’. And TADA is no more there. Anybody can carry anything, even a bomb, but without a plastic carry bag,” said one of the plain clothed policemen in a plain language. Since I had already owerpowered them in argument, that big moustached officer with barrel stomach could use only plain language. He could not afford using strong words as they often do.
“Can we go Sir? Only one is caught. We need to hurry up. We have lost already half an hour. We do not want further delay,” said the bus conductor.
“You can go, but give me my refund” I shouted “Why do you leave me alone and go, as if am an animal?”
“Wait a minute you conductor” said the chief. He called me aside and said “lets not make an issue here and argue in public. Lets talk private”.
”You are very disturbed, you argue a lot. If we take you to court or even if you take us to court I know ultimately you win, since you are innocent. But your lawyer will make you poorer by Rs. 20,000. And we do not want you to appear in front page of a newspaper tomorrow with hunderds of plastic carry bags. Save money, Save time, Save enviornment”.
I wanted my enviornment to be clean. I knew what he meant. More arguments meant more problems for everyone. Even if I do not land in court, they will just make me lose my money which was meant for fish.
In normal situation no officer lets anybody go ‘scotfree’. He makes sure the ‘offender’ is fined or at least paid certain percentage of fine as bribe. But since so many people were there and my arguments were strong enough to shake their spirit, They let me go anyway. Before I was about to board the bus, I heard a junior officer telling his chief “Sir, We have gathered all the plastics here. We need at least ten carry bags to carry them”
“I will buy six bags from next plastic shop. Till then use those four empty plastic bags which that argumentative Indian left”.The chief said
Our bus sped off.
Before buying fish I bought a plastic bucket to carry fish. I knew other bags cannot be used again if I use them to carry fish. I had to rush home. I had lost lot of time. I did not want to go by bus. So I took an expensive deecision by taking an auto.. On my way back my auto too was stopped. The same chief who talked to me earlier put his head into the auto, saw me and my bucket and said “This time its ok. Only carry bags we sieze. But next time even bucket can be siezed because it is also a plastic product. Total plastic ban will come soon”
I said “Ok. I will buy alluminium or copper bucket then. Bye”
My wife asked “You took carrybags and now you have brought fish in a bucket”
I replied “My dear wife. It’s a plastic surgery. We will talk about it later. Do you not think we should cook the fish first?”
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