City of Beards and Deodorants


(taken from

I landed Mumbai’s International airport after a gap of three months travelling in the United States. When I got out of the aircraft, I saw the local airline staff with wheelchairs on the connecting bridge. All men standing there had long beards. I reached the immigration desk. All immigration officers were sporting thick beards. On immigration I breezed through the customs. All customs officers had white beards matching with their white uniforms. Soon, I realized that all men at the airport had grown beards – the policemen, the taxi wallahs, men receiving their folks, the McDonald staff at the counters… I was simply astonished!

When I got into my car, and asked my driver (who also had grown a beard), what’s wrong? He said “Mumbai is in a severe water crisis and there is 60% water cut. The city administration has banned shaving for men to save water. All hairdresser shops are also closed.”

As we were exiting the parking lot and paid for the ticket, I was given a deodorant spray – with complements of the Municipal Corporation of Mumbai. The spray was with a flyer. The flyer appealed  that please don’t take bath every day but once in three days – as there was no water in Mumbai’s water reservoirs. That hit me real hard.

When we reached my apartment, the driver parked the car at another spot than my usual parking place. When I asked him he said that the locations of parking were chosen such that the cars were under the air conditioners. The drip-drops from the air conditioners fitted in the apartments would fall on the cars and this water would be used for cleaning. No use of freshwater was allowed for washing cars.

I checked my mail box at the ground floor. The box was full of flyers on saving water and notices from the Corporation on new water related rules, dos and don’ts and punitive actions that will be taken. There was an inspection report from the Municipal Officer who had visited the flat in my absence. The report said that he found 4 taps in the bathroom, 2 showerheads and 2 wash-basins. I was told to shut down 2 taps, one showerhead and remove 1 wash basin to immediate effect.  This is what the Corporation would allow. There was no question of having a tub in the bathroom. A model of typical tub was now placed in the Prince of Wales Museum for people to see and remember

I did not take a shower and sprayed deodorant on my suit and went to the office. The office was smelling with deodorants – few colleagues were sneezing and some had watery eyes due the allergy of the spray.

There were few plumbers moving around the toilet. “These guys are changing our toilet to waterless urinals” My colleague said. I thought this will be smelly. But our office was told so by the Building society. Then I saw a big heap of paper napkins. This was because no hand washing was allowed after lunch. I realized that the city would produce huge quantity of tissue paper waste soon.

We decided to go for lunch in the nearby restaurant. The food items were limited. Only dry vegetables were served. No spicy food was provided as it would lead to more demand for drinking water. No finger bowls allowed. Only small volume glasses of water were provided for drinking. Just one glass per person was allowed. For the second glass, the charge was equivalent to a bottle of coke. So many were drinking coke. Everyone at the lunch table was talking about the water cut and was thinking of moving out of Mumbai.

The price of the bottled water was now nearly three times – but yet truckloads of water bottles were brought to the city. The menace of used plastic water bottles was certainly going to increase, There were more water tankers now on the streets and queues out side the city wells were longer than the one on the Chaturthee at the Siddhivinayak.



I noticed that the greenery in the city had reduced as there was no water available for gardening. There were now plastic lawns at the Turf club and the Chembur Golf Club. The Golfers were having a hard time to adjust to the new “roughness”.

Next day I was lecturing at IIT Bombay. My colleagues told me that a major scientific committee was formed consisting some of the senior professors. They were looking at tapping moisture in the air and produce water. Besides the challenge on technology, there was an issue of pollution in the air. The water so derived required purification to remove the air pollutants and this was where the economics of the project was failing. I wished the city air was not that polluted.

There was another big project that was getting discussed. This was about converting the city sewage by tertiary treatment into water. This water could be used for washing, cooling, drinking etc. depending on the level of treatment provided. The Idea was to stop sending the sewage to the sea but build sewage recycling plants at various locations. This project required land, investments and some 10 years to implement. Some said that such a project should have been conceived and planned much in advance. Today in Mumbai sewage recycling happens in some of the multistoried buildings and industries like Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers. There are by-laws on sewage recycling but not seriously enforced. Some said that there will be risks on recycling as the sewage characteristics today are rather complex and not easy to treat, especially the micro-pollutants. The transportation of treated sewage for use was also going to be challenge.

Never too late, we could at least start with a pilot project – I said to myself. Sewage recycling plants will certainly work on a decentralized basis.

The corporation was also looking at identifying a new source of water. These sources were far away at some 150 km distance. This would require huge energy to pump. Indeed this was not going to be a very sustainable solution. Till then the building proposals department was asked not to approve new buildings. That made the officers working in the proposal department a bit upset as there was not going to be any transaction.

Rainwater harvesting could be a good strategy – While rainwater harvesting is mandated in Mumbai, its implementation is not seriously taken. There are not many good professionals. There are space constraints and people generally neglect operation and maintenance. Of course, rainwater harvesting will help only if it rains – I thought.


Given the grim situation on water, I was generally impressed with the efforts taken by the Corporation. I spoke about this to my Professor friend.

He looked at me and laughed. “We are really out of the mark. The first think we should do is to address the water loss and pilferage happening at our pipelines. Mumbai has the highest rate of water loss. Its nearly 50% today. If fixed on priority, then we will address half of our problem. No need then to look for new water sources or levy severe water cuts”





I thought he had a point.

We often don’t do things that are sometimes so obvious!

Sure, we  don’t want to see cities with people with beards and using deodorants. Stopping the leaks from the pipes conveying water to the city makes an abundant sense!




Many ask me that you have been generally pointing out what’s missing or what’s wrong with the “system”. While some of your observations may be valid, don’t you think that this is rather depressing! Sometimes it sounds a bit rhetoric.

Indeed, there are many positive stories to tell and good initiatives to talk about. And this is true.

I am writing this post today to tell you about Anvaya.

Films play an important role for raising awareness and spreading the solutions among citizens. Films tell the stories you want to tell.

Anvaya (meaning positive action in Sanskrit) is a short film contest on the various themes under the broad topic of Environment. The contest helps in collating the “good” happening around and connects the leaders/innovators to the world as a source of inspiration.

Anvaya was conceived by my not-for-profit company “Ekonnect Knowledge Foundation”

Objectives of Anvaya are as follows

         Awareness raising & encouraging citizen involvement in issues of Environment

         Sensitizing citizens and promoting action through a creative medium such as short videos/films

         Dissemination of films created by citizen groups, professionals and municipal corporations to showcase innovative solutions on various environmental issues in their locality

         Creating a platform for like-minded citizens to network and action for a better environment

The first event under Anvaya was conducted over last 3 months. The theme was Waste to Resources. The contest called for positive ideas and solutions to be showcased instead of focusing on the problem. The event was conducted in partnership with Xavier Institute of Communications (XIC), a well-established and reputed institution in the field of Mass Media and Communications in Mumbai.

The contest required citizens to shoot a short film on this theme within a stipulated time. In order to provide technical support as the participants are not expected to know film making, a one day training on ‘film making’ was included in the contest. This made a difference

As part of the contest, a one of its kind training programme focusing on the theme i.e. Waste to Resource management and fundamentals of film-making was conducted for all the registered applicants. More than 40 individuals and organizations registered for the contest.

The first part of the Training session had presentations and short films screened by Ekonnect sensitizing the applicants on the subject of waste management and sharing some of best practices. Following this session, a practical session was conducted by the XIC faculty on fundamentals of film-making through screening of films and with group exercises.


We received 14 entries. Eleven entries were shortlisted and screened. The Jury evaluated the entrees and selected top three for awards. All the entries gave examples and messages on innovative ideas on waste to resource management. I hope to see their replication across the communities.


Visit Anvaya Facebook Page:



Ekonnect Website:

For Films and other videos:

Ekonnect’s YouTube Channel:

You can download all the 11 shortlisted films and use in the awareness programs you conduct

View the award winning film Scavengers of Mumbai at

This film will be screened at the World Cinema Forum in Davos.

Anvaya is a journey that has just begun; much more is yet to come. The contest witnessed fruitful outcomes in the form of short films addressing the issue of waste to resource management.

We at Ekonnect look forward to highlighting more such creative ideas and innovative solutions for various other environmental issues concerning our society and our world.

We wish to grow this network of citizens to a much larger scale in order to the meet long term objectives of Anvaya. Our aim is to spread the message across different parts of the country focusing on the ‘positive’ interventions to varied environmental themes. This will ensure a platform for sharing ideas that worked and spreading the same to other parts of the country and the world in the hope that they will be replicated and scaled to achieve a larger impact.

To achieve these goals, collaboration with likeminded organizations is the key. We welcome all collaborations and support that will help us in meeting our objectives.

Coming up – Anvaya 2.0: Water Management

In light of the water crises in many regions of the country today, it is of utmost importance to identify solutions that effectively and innovatively address this issue. Due to uneven rainfall patterns in the last few years and extreme events, our agro-economy and livelihoods have been affected. Cities are facing severe water cuts.

We need to work hard and collaborate to invent solutions to conserve, manage, reuse and equitably distribute water – a life giving resource.

Anvaya 2.0 will focus on the theme of Water and provide an opportunity for innovators, community based organizations, entrepreneurs and passionate individuals to showcase their efforts on managing and saving water inspiring other citizens to follow suit.

We are looking for sponsors and supporters to promote Anvaya 2.0. Write to me on prasad.modak@emcentre to join



Making Waste as the Business


I was on a tour out of India for couple of weeks. When I returned, I was passing over the dump site of Deonar Dharavi in Mumbai. This site is on the way when you travel from Airport to Chembur where my Professor friend lives. The dump site is supposedly one of the largest in Asia –something not to feel proud about. Its also more known today because of the movie slumdog millionaire.

I was amazed to see that there was a tall wireframe barricade with checkposts rimmed at the boundary of the dump site. This was new to me. The dump site looked like a mountain.At the checkposts, there were armed forces guarding the dump site with real guns and search lights. I even noticed a combat tank with ammunition at the main entrance. Did we start a war on waste? Crazy – I mumbled to myself.

When I reached Professors home and settled on the sofa, the first question I asked “What’s going on Professor around the Deonar dump site?”

Well Professor said, all this is because of the new initiative that I have launched in India. I advised the Government that let us use market based mechanisms to tackle the problem of waste and not depend on regulations and enforcement anymore. For years, we have had the regulations, regulators, environmental NGOs and now abhiyans and despite all these, the problem of waste remains – We continue to see more and more waste. New waste streams have emerged that are difficult to handle. People litter, don’t segregate waste and merrily dump. Our land and water resources get contaminated. Biodiversity comes under threat.


Image source from

I proposed that the Government pays for the waste delivered and go on a buying spree. Treat waste as an asset essentially.

Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) generates nearly 10000 tons of mixed waste every day. All this waste is now bought by MCGM from the waste generators at an attractive price. The city has opened up 30 waste depots where waste can be brought by anybody to get paid. At each depot, the waste is weighed and payments are made based on the volume and characteristics of the waste. If you bring waste in segregated form then you get better price. Rates are also fixed for buying specific waste streams and materials like e-waste, metals, glass, plastic etc.  And if you bring waste in the form of a component (through some disassembly and re-engineering) then you get paid even better. The idea is here promote innovation.

Professor took a deep puff.

Moment such a policy and scheme was announced, people all over Mumbai have gone crazy. No waste is now “wasted”. Everyone is rushing to the depots with waste they generate, waste that is dumped and waste that they could even steal. Many have resigned their jobs and have taken waste collection and selling as their full time profession. Centres of waste to resource conversion have come about with training courses and micro-finance. Some have started offering transport services by switching from what they currently do. These waste vans run on the bio-gas that is generated from the organic waste. This has threatened distribution of essential services. Railways have introduced 9 10, 12 40, 3 30 pm and 7 05 pm special shuttles from Churchgate and VT stations that will carry only waste and not commuters. Getting into these trains is not easy.

All the waste from depots is now transported to the Deonar dump site. This is the main job the Municipality does.

The dump site now looks like a mountain. Several attempts are made by the underworld and waste mafia of Mumbai to steal this waste reserve and sell the waste in the suburbs or in the black market to make money. Hence all the security measures are taken by putting high wire fence and by planting check posts around the dump site. In fact, all dump sites in India are now heavily guarded on similar lines as the national treasure. Given the years of callousness on waste management in India, we believe that the value of the waste bank created on this basis will be as important as the Gold reserve. This bank will provide resources for India’s next three generations. Once waste is recognized as an important national commodity, we expect a sharp rise in India’s GDP as well as the Gross Ecological Product (GEP)

I was astonished with this bold and far sighted approach.

No wonder, the streets of Mumbai now look clean and litter free. No risks of flooding and dengue anymore. Long lines of vehicles and waste vans outside the waste depots show citizen commitment to the principle – waste is wealth.  The co-benefit of supporting livelihoods of thousands of people, would certainly help this Government to win the next election.

I said “But what will you do with the millions of tons of waste that will be collected in this process? And what about the finance? How will you pay and continue to pay to the waste suppliers on national scale?

The Professor probably expected this “stupid” question. We examined this challenge – he said lighting his second Cigar.

The waste bought will be auctioned and processed to make products to put back to the market. For example, used computers will be refurbished with new hard disks fixed and legal software installed and provided to the schools at low cost.  Plastic will be processed to make diesel and sold at the petrol pumps. Tetrapack cartons will be converted into furniture.

We have spoken to the private sector and held several rounds of discussion. One of the major problems of the waste processing industry in India today is the waste supply guarantee. Through our approach towards waste as commodity and centralized procurement, the waste processing industry will feel confident now to buy waste from us and invest to make recycled products. We are in addition signing product purchase agreement (PPA) with waste processing companies. No taxes levied on the recycled products.  We will now see more recycled products than virgin products.

Because waste to electricity conversion, electricity rates have crashed. In 30 kms radius, no chemical fertilizers are bought because of the abundant compost. Biggies like Tatas, Birlas, Ambanis and Vedantas have set up large waste verticals in their business.  Waste materials appear now on commodity trading exchanges. Waste bonds are also out. This is the idea of circular economy.

Besides, organizing efficient collection and recycling of waste at the national level, is going to save further contamination of our natural resources – thereby improving our resource security. Tourism will improve too. These benefits far outweigh the investments.

Funds for buying waste will be mobilized mainly through the revenue made out of selling waste to the processing industry. Trimming down the waste management cells of urban local bodies, pollution control boards, departments of environment etc. will also help reduce the costs. Due to the lead taken by the market based approach, I see that regulators will have little role to play.

“Professor, this is an amazing approach. You have really ushered the Green Economy in India.  I am sure other countries will follow the suit – do you see any challenges”

Professor got up and walked towards the window and looked outside. “Here I need your help”

Due to pricing of the waste as commodity, there is now a new transformation.

Everybody wants to generate more waste to make money. I see increase in the per capita waste generation from 0.5 kg /day to nearly 1.5 kg/day. Some folks have found innovative ways on how to generate more waste in the production operations, especially the SMEs. This has led to two fold increase on waste generation per ton basis for some products. Apparently, price they get from us on supplying waste provides more income than selling of product itself in the market! I have come across cases where SMEs are selling their products as waste at our depots. The reason being we guarantee purchase and offer good price.

The price line is very important. If I lower the rates, then people won’t supply us the waste. If I increase the rate then more waste will be generated and brought to the depots. Thats not good from sustainability perspective. It’s a tight rope walk.

I realized the gravity of the problem Professor was getting into. I did not have an easy answer.

I wish people realize that why do they consume beyond their needs and generate waste in the first place. I said.

Oh I am tired listening to this philosophy Prasad – Professor said this while extinguishing his cigar.

Talk something real and practical.

I returned home – this time not going over the dumpsite of Deonar Dharavi.


The report Global Waste Management Outlook  led by UNEP International Environmental Technology Centre (IETC) and International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) is now out. I was one of the four principal authors and contributed to the chapter on situation analyses – challenges & opportunities. This was a yearlong grueling project. Access this report at and know more  about it at


At Ekonnect Knowledge Foundation we just concluded a video competition in Mumbai called Anvaya (means in Sanskrit – positive action) on waste to resource management. There were 14 entries. Visit to download the report and to access the YouTube channel to view the films.


Cover image sourced from

The Conference Game


I went to see my Professor friend last week in his office. He was busy as usual with two mobile phones ringing. He was having a tough time in moving between conversations.

Behind his large desk, there was a wooden panel with hooks. A large number of conference registration tags were hanging there. Some with thick green nylon strings and a plastic pouch, some with a clip with laminated cover. On the side of the desk was a chest of drawers. A heap of conference folders was placed on the top that seem to gather some dust. Some conference folders were of plastic and few were made from jute that stood out.   There was a large mug on the desk that was full with all kinds of pens– mostly ball points. I realized that the Professor was on a conference spree. No wonder I did not spot him at our usual coffee place lately.

I asked him and he said “Well, Prime Minister’s Office asked me to attend all important conferences on Environment & Sustainability in India over past 3 months. Phew – it was hell of a job. I had to travel almost all corners of the country as everyone seems to be holding a conference on environment. And I realized that it was not just me alone who was travelling – it included speakers and participants as well.I found the same speakers and same participants  at these events but at different places! To some attending and speaking at conferences seems to be a profession or an addiction!

Oh I see-I said, I was wondering how large will be the carbon footprint of these conferences. Fewer of such events could indeed help environment and sustainability.

But how did you find the presentations and discussions I asked. Something new, interesting, innovative?

Well well. Professor said lighting his cigar. Most topics were standard and repetitive like Waste to Energy, Corporate Social Responsibility, Business & Sustainability, Green Buildings, and Climate Change – only difference being that some conferences are run by CII, some by FICCI, some by BCCI and some by IMC. These chambers and associations take turns and keep revisiting these topics. The titles are kept different because of the competition. Good part is that these organizations book different hotels as venue each time so you feel that the conference is different although the topics are the same.

Sad part however is that these hotels offer the same lunch menu like panneer tikka masala, jeera rice, mixed vegetables, nan and ras malai even when the conference is held in South India. I developed indigestion by eating food at these conferences over the last three months. I have been telling the organizers that I don’t mind that the presentations to repeat or are drab but the food should be innovative and interesting to keep the participants engaged during the lunch breaks. FICCI and CII are seriously looking at this suggestion.

But how do the sessions happen?

Oh, that’s another story. Professor said. There is a chairman for the session, generally an IAS officer from the Government, or an Industrialist who has cosponsored the event or a Professor from IITs if the first two are not available. The Chairman generally appears to be redundant. Speakers are called one by one. As the speaker profiles are often given only minutes before the session, the Chairman struggles reading these profiles and ends saying “Dr Modak is so well known that he needs no introduction – so without further adieu let me invite him to the dais  etc etc – .” Some chairman dominate the session and behave like a speaker. Some Chairmen are strict on time and all they do is keeping ringing the bell after 8 minutes. The session ends with Chairman saying that “Sorry – we have already overrun the allocated time and I don’t want to stand between you and the lunch. So no questions please. Meet the speakers in the lobby and ask your questions bilaterally”. In most conferences, sessions end on such a note. Participants don’t mind. Who has questions and who have answers when it comes to the topic of Environment and Sustainability?

And what about the speakers? I asked. (I was worried because I was a speaker on one of the recently held conferences)

Generally, the speakers are good. But many speak what we already know or say something that is not relevant. They often forget to update the slide date – so we see presentations that they or their assistants prepared few years ago. Speakers come up with a 50 slide presentation for a 10 min slot so they keep moving the slides like a fast train – apologizing to the audience. And often there are slides that can be seen only by the first two rows because of the small fonts or poor quality pictures. The speaker apologizes once again. That’s typical. Some speakers try to show video clips that don’t run on the first click. It then becomes a “technology issue” and few minutes are spent to fix the issue with no success! The speaker then looks like wounded eagle who cannot fly!

A Group photo is taken of the Session speakers along with Chairman. This photo reaches you in a week which you promptly put on the Facebook.

Then of course there is an important benefit of networking. This happens in the corridors and in the loos. You catch up on the business buzz and get update on people who changed jobs. New visiting cards get exchanged. Some gossips happen. I find this as the most rewarding benefit of the conferences. Professor said.

I was wondering what if we had a 2 hour lunch (instead of 1 hour) and 1 hour Tea/coffee break instead of usual half hour and cut down the so called technical sessions. This may make the conferences much more effective.

What about the conference kits? I asked Professor this “material question”.

Well, most organizers now a days give you a pen drive with papers or presentations. Later you can erase this content and use the pen drive to store movies. That’s the material benefit. Since the conference bag does not contain papers, it is filled with publicity material, information on tourists’ spots as must visit or coupons for discounts on shopping nearby. This is very useful. The bags are often made out of jute to show commitment of the organizers/sponsors on environment. Participants however don’t like these “cheap bags” as they prefer a good quality leather bag or a pouch considering the high fees.

So given this scenario, why were you asked to attend such conferences? I could not resist but ask.

Well, the Government wants to know what people discuss in conferences when it comes to Environment & Sustainability. This is in view of the modernization of Environmental Governance the Government is busy with.

After attending 30 conferences over last 3 months in the country, my report conclusively shows that there is indeed nothing to worry for the Government. Conferences do not bring out anything new, all mundane stuff, few ripples here and there but no storms. Conferences are not there to change India’s outlook, infuse knowledge from practice, inspire or influence the world. Airlines, hotels and conference kit providers will continue to remain the principal stakeholders of the Conference Game.

Cover image sourced from


Buy Nothing Day


The breaking news in all newspapers and TV channels was about India’s adoption to the Buy Nothing Day (BND).

There were intense debates and opinions on the pros and cons of BND.

Few protested – especially from the industry and retail business, and several celebrations were held in the streets mainly by the environmental activists. BND is a great idea – they said.

Whats Buy Nothing Day?

Buy Nothing Day (BND) is an international day of protest against consumerism. BND was founded in Vancouver by artist Ted Dave and subsequently promoted by Adbusters magazine, based in Canada.

The first Buy Nothing Day was organized in Canada in September 1992 “as a day for society to examine the issue of over-consumption.” In 1997, BND was moved to the Friday after American Thanksgiving, also called “Black Friday”, which is one of the ten busiest shopping days in the United States. Soon, campaigns started appearing in the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Austria, Germany, New Zealand, Japan, the Netherlands, France, Norway and Sweden. Participation now includes more than 65 nations.

I suspected that that my Professor friend played some role in advising and convincing the Indian Government to join the BND movement. I therefore called upon him and we met at our usual coffee shop. We settled at the round table in the coffee shop’s verandah. An Ethiopian coffee was served with complementary ginger biscuits. The waiter got for the Professor a large ash tray.

“Well, observing BND was my suggestion to the Government” – Professor said this and lighted his cigar. It’s a tactical move to show India’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There are bound to be however some hiccups that we have to address. Some good ones– and some bad. I am working on these.

I looked at the 48” LED screen on the wall. The Times Now channel was showing shots of streets of Mumbai –Live!

I saw a huge gathering at the streets of the junction of the flora fountain in front of the HSBC. Adv Deshpande, Chairman of Grahak Sangh was addressing the rally. He was proposing that we cut up the credit cards on the BND to express our concern on the rising consumerism. All patrons of Mumbai Grahak Sangh will stand outside City’s prominent malls with a pair of scissors and at sharp 12 am they will cut their credit cards.


People Cutting Credit Cards in the US on BND

I thought the idea was dramatic and really impactful. Besides, this action would mean helping people who want to put an end to mounting debt and extortionate interest rates thrust by the credit card companies.

But if the citizens who will cut the cards ask for replacements later – then I thought that the cost of replacement would be quite high. And it will also lead to big inconvenience to the credit card companies – I therefore wondered whether it was the right action on BND.

In the meanwhile, Professor ordered another round of coffee.

There was a group of people sitting on the larger roundtable next to us. A Woman having a Green Tea was talking about the “Zombie walks” to her friends.

[On the BND, people in the United States and UK take on “Zombie walks”: These “zombies” wander around shopping malls with funny dresses and with a blank stare. When asked what they are doing – the participants describe what Buy Nothing Day is about. It’s like a fashion parade of crazy]


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“We should go Zombie on the BND of India”. The Woman with Green Tea said. She suggested that in order to make a good impact, all should follow a certain theme e.g. a saffron dress. We could dress like Radha Maa for instance. This will bring in a new spiritual dimension. The Woman made more such suggestions based on dresses she saw in some of the Page 3 parties.


Radhe Maa

Most folks on the Table were excited and decided to meet once a week to plan ahead for the Zombie walks on BND. “This will be something special– and so different to work on. And it will keep us busy. Let me speak about this to my friends in the next Rotary meeting”. Woman having fresh lime soda said.

In the meanwhile, waiter at the coffee shop came and changed the channel to CNN-IBN as someone complained about Arnab Goswami. CNN-IBN channel was showing a clip of the pilot BND activity at the Ambience Mall in Delhi to get a kind of preview. This was a procession like event carried out under Sunita Narain’s leadership. Here, the participants silently steered their shopping carts in a long, baffling line without putting anything in the carts or actually making any purchases. The storekeepers were shocked to see this human chain moving. Sunita said that this was only a pilot or a dry run but on the actual BND, such processions will happen at 110 malls of India from 14 cities and already 10,000 people had signed up.

I thought that this was very impressive. To counteract, I was told that many retailers like Shoppers Stop, Reliance Fresh had come up with a strategy to give hefty discounts to the purchases made on BND and lure these people to “buy something”

The Professor said “this is nothing. Medha Patkar, Arundhati Roy and Vandana Shiva have come together to support BND. All the NGOs who listen to them, will not only ban buying for twenty-four hours but also keep their lights, televisions, computers and other non-essential appliances turned off, their cars parked, and their phones turned off or unplugged from sunrise to sunset.  The BND will thus be remembered and talked about over another month because of all the inconveniences caused in this process.

I said “Very Interesting strategy”

The Professor continued.

There are some issues however. Many women from Malabar Hill in Mumbai for example plan to get admitted in Breach Candy and Jaslok hospitals one day in advance to face the trauma of not able to shop. These women for their health and solace of mind need to shop “something” every day. If shopping cannot be done then there could be a crisis situation for them such as high hypertension, heart palpitation, irregular breathing, profuse sweating, temporary loss of memory etc. Both Breach Candy and Jaslok have set up special BND ward for this purpose where such Women can be admitted and treated.  The charges are Rs 100,000 that these women and their husbands are happy to pay. To them, BND could be dangerous.


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I said “I understand and I do have sympathies”

“Consumerism is too deeply ingrained in the society and culture to be eradicated in one day of abstinence. Everyone has simply become accustomed to this and it is one of those things that cannot be fixed overnight” I said

Professor extinguished his Cigar and I continued

“Further, after a day where people can’t buy nothing, the next day people will spend double the amount, and also the day before, because people will buy things they think is necessary. The retailers, shopkeepers and businessmen will hike the prices one day before and day after BND and thus will make tons of money! I hope that’s not the idea?

The Professor did not respond.

“It seems that there are around 1 million shopping transactions happening on-line. How would you handle this shopping on BND? I guess these portals will not operate and we will see the page “Site Closed for Today. Is this the plan?”- I couldn’t resist asking

On the contrary, Professor said. These web sites will remain open. They will let you book the orders but there will not be any deliveries of products on the BND as a principle. And if you book the order on BND then you will be required to pay a surcharge of 10%. This surcharge will reach the Government’s treasury.

“Wow – very clever Professor  I smell a rat here” I said this while settling the bill.

Thank God that BND is not made mandatory and that it is just for a day and not a week. Imagine what could happen if a BNW or Buy Nothing Week was to be observed. May be rich and consumptive nations need a BNW.


Cover picture sourced from