From the heart it has come, to the heart it shall go…

“You often say, ‘I would give, but only to the deserving.’ The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture. They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.” —Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet.

The recent ban on the use of a number of plastic items by the municipality of Mumbai brought a loud hurrah from most quarters, especially the environmentalists. I too joined in the cheer. Thousands of plastic bags were being doled out in the city at the drop of a hat on the purchase of just about any item.

In a fast growing culture of use and throw, most of these plastic bags found their way to a dustbin or even worse, carelessly thrown on the road leading to the clogging up of a collapsing British era drainage system, the results of which lead to the flooding of the city each time the heavens open up.

There is no doubt in my mind that for a city bursting at its seams, drastic measures such as these are essential. But every action has an equal and opposite reaction and that I discovered this week, as I chaired a monthly review meeting of the parish. Ironically the poor always get a beating when it comes to the implementation of many poorly thought through government policies, be it demonetization, GST or the ban on plastic.

While a mere 44% of my parishioners are employed, a 100% of those above 65 years are dependents. Most of the families in the parish supplement their incomes by assembling tiny bits of imitation jewellery together for a paltry sum; yet to them it is an integral part of their earning which often keeps their head above water. With the ban on plastic, the suppliers of imitation jewellery, colloquially called ‘maal’ or material, simply dried up, as imitation jewellery is either mounted on a plastic board or simply wrapped in plastic bags.

Overnight incomes dwindled and those whose livelihoods entirely ran on this business, found themselves penniless. As usual the poor are always collateral damage. Mercifully the parish council of St Jude’s has never been caught up with parochial bureaucracy and red tapism; the poor have a greater identification with the sufferings of their own ilk. The council was quick to sanction help in the payment of bills and groceries.

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