Congress President Rahul Gandhi kept himself busy over the weekend on his two-day trip to Karnataka, ahead of next month’s Assembly elections in the state. By busy, we mean he spent the weekend interacting with locals, taking rides on the metro, clicking selfies with Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and buying books.
On Sunday afternoon, Gandhi surprised commuters on the Namma Metro in Bengaluru by boarding the train with the chief minister and posing for selfies with them. But that was only after he took a selfie with Siddaramaiah himself while they were buying metro tokens (video above).
After that they decided to take a stroll down Church Street and walked into a book store, emerging with a selection of five books, which reportedly included Perumal Murugan’s The Goat Thief, The Art of Living by Thich Nhat Hanh and a book about Ikigai, a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being”. You can watch Gandhi purchasing the books – technically Siddaramaiah paid for the books and even got a discount – in the video below. Soon after, both Congress leaders headed out for lunch to Koshy’s, a popular joint in Bengaluru, and for some road-side kulfi.
Earlier in the day Gandhi interacted with safai karamcharis and promised abolition of contractual employment for safai karamcharis all over India if his party came to power in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The Karnataka unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party couldn’t, however, resist taking a dig at Gandhi’s activities over the weekend on Twitter.
The Congress and BJP are both campaigning hard in poll-bound Karnataka, which is one of the three states in India that the Congress still governs.
The hazards of single-use plastic items, and what to use instead.
In June 2018, a distressed whale in Thailand made headlines around the world. After an autopsy it’s cause of death was determined to be more than 80 plastic bags it had ingested. The pictures caused great concern and brought into focus the urgency of the fight against single-use plastic. This term refers to use-and-throw plastic products that are designed for one-time use, such as takeaway spoons and forks, polythene bags styrofoam cups etc. In its report on single-use plastics, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has described how single-use plastics have a far-reaching impact in the environment.
Dense quantity of plastic litter means sights such as the distressed whale in Thailand aren’t uncommon. Plastic products have been found in the airways and stomachs of hundreds of marine and land species. Plastic bags, especially, confuse turtles who mistake them for jellyfish - their food. They can even exacerbate health crises, such as a malarial outbreak, by clogging sewers and creating ideal conditions for vector-borne diseases to thrive. In 1988, poor drainage made worse by plastic clogging contributed to the devastating Bangladesh floods in which two-thirds of the country was submerged.
Plastic litter can, moreover, cause physiological harm. Burning plastic waste for cooking fuel and in open air pits releases harmful gases in the air, contributing to poor air quality especially in poorer countries where these practices are common. But plastic needn’t even be burned to cause physiological harm. The toxic chemical additives in the manufacturing process of plastics remain in animal tissue, which is then consumed by humans. These highly toxic and carcinogenic substances (benzene, styrene etc.) can cause damage to nervous systems, lungs and reproductive organs.
The European Commission recently released a list of top 10 single-use plastic items that it plans to ban in the near future. These items are ubiquitous as trash across the world’s beaches, even the pristine, seemingly untouched ones. Some of them, such as styrofoam cups, take up to a 1,000 years to photodegrade (the breakdown of substances by exposure to UV and infrared rays from sunlight), disintegrating into microplastics, another health hazard.
More than 60 countries have introduced levies and bans to discourage the use of single-use plastics. Morocco and Rwanda have emerged as inspiring success stories of such policies. Rwanda, in fact, is now among the cleanest countries on Earth. In India, Maharashtra became the 18th state to effect a ban on disposable plastic items in March 2018. Now India plans to replicate the decision on a national level, aiming to eliminate single-use plastics entirely by 2022. While government efforts are important to encourage industries to redesign their production methods, individuals too can take steps to minimise their consumption, and littering, of single-use plastics. Most of these actions are low on effort, but can cause a significant reduction in plastic waste in the environment, if the return of Olive Ridley turtles to a Mumbai beach are anything to go by.
To know more about the single-use plastics problem, visit Planet or Plastic portal, National Geographic’s multi-year effort to raise awareness about the global plastic trash crisis. From microplastics in cosmetics to haunting art on plastic pollution, Planet or Plastic is a comprehensive resource on the problem. You can take the pledge to reduce your use of single-use plastics, here.
This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of National Geographic, and not by the Scroll editorial team.