Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur on Wednesday said the government has decided to buy back non-recyclable and single used plastic waste including plastic bags in Himachal Pradesh from the rag pickers and households to make state plastic-free.

The plastic would be purchased at the minimum support price of Rs 75 per kg for its collection and deposit in the collection centres of the urban local bodies, he said paying tributes to Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi 150th birth anniversary.

He in the presence of Governor Bandaru Dattatreya launched ‘Swachhta Hi Seva’ programme, the state-level ‘Shramdaan’ programme at The Ridge, Shimla. Thakur said plastic was not only an environmental hazard but it was also a health threat for humans as well as animals.

“Himachal has honour of being the second Open Defecation Free State of the country after Sikkim,” he said, adding the state government has already imposed ban on use of plastic bags and cutlery made of plastic and thermocol.

He said Clean India would be the best tribute to Mahatma Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched Swachh Bharat Mission on 2 October 2014 throughout the country as a national movement with an objective to achieve the vision by 2 October 2019. He exhorted people to realize the dream of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of a clean and hygienic India.

Thakur said people from different sections of the society should come forward and join this mass movement of cleanliness by involving NGOs and local communities to make India clean. “Frequent cleanliness campaigns to spread awareness about hygiene through plays and music should also be widely carried out across the state to sensitize the people,” he added.

He urged the students to play a pro-active role in making Himachal Pradesh a plastic-free state and for this, support and cooperation of every section of the society was vital.

Speaking on the occasion, Governor Bandaru Dattatraya said there was a need to adopt Gandhiji’s humanistic message and ideology in life. “We were celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation as ‘Swachhata Hi Seva’ campaign and also, this day was being celebrated to perform Shramdaan to eradicate plastic waste,” he said. Dattatraya said plastic has become a curse for science in the present and poses a grave threat to mankind.

He expressed his happiness that Himachal was the first state in the country to tackle the threat of Plastic and other Non-biodegradable Waste and implemented Himachal Pradesh Non-Biodegradable Garbage (Control) Act, 1995 and Non-Biodegradable Garbage (Control) Rule, 1996.

Under this Act, the state government has taken an important step towards the disposal of non-Biodegradable waste in a scientific manner.

The polythene waste collected through various awareness campaigns being run in the state was being used as an alternative in road construction and as fuel in cement kilns, which was helpful in reducing plastic waste from the earth, water and air, besides this, emission of Green House Gases would also be reduced. As a result, the adverse effects of climate change would also be reduced, he added.

Dattatraya said that Mahatma Gandhi considered cleanliness equal to devotion and imparted the education of cleanliness to all. With the idea of Clean India, he used to think about keeping all the citizens together and keeping the country clean.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has been started as an inspiration from Gandhiji’s thoughts, as Mahatma had dreamt before the independence of our country to be as clean as other developed nations, he added.