Good Old Newspaper Wrappings Are Back!
KOLKATA, (IANS) – The good old newspaper ‘thonga’ or ‘thongey’ is back with a bang, thanks to the ban on single use plastic but shop owners are complaining, even as ‘kabadi walas’ reselling old newspapers to packet makers are all smiles. Over the last fortnight, the price of these packets has gone up by over 40 percent in Kolkata and the suburbs.
“We used to buy newspaper packets for Rs 35 a kilogram till June 30. This has now gone up to Rs 50. It is now turning out to more expensive than the SUP bags we used earlier. The other option is to provide plastic bags that are made of thicker material. These are also expensive. Customers are still not keen to pay Rs 2-3 for such bags and demand them for free,” a shop owner in Bhowanipore said.
He maintained that he earns a profit of merely Rs 5-6 by selling a dozen eggs. Of this, 50-60 paise is lost for the newspaper packet. A further Rs 2 for a bag would see his profit tumbling to less than Rs 3, he reasons.
“Like always, it is the small-time trader who is suffering. Large grocery stores make a profit of Rs 100-150 from every customer and happily give away bags worth Rs 5. These same customers expect the same from us when purchasing items of far lesser value. We are expected to give away a bag worth Rs 3 for a profit of Rs 20. There needs to be an awareness among all sections of society,” said Shyamal Sarkar, a trader in Gariahat.
The ‘thonga’ makers claim that they were forced to increase prices after the used newspapers they use got more expensive. Earlier, they used to buy newspapers at Rs 10 per kilogram. Now, its Rs 14-15 per kg. Most such packets are made by women in marginalized households. Apart from the labor, there are other expenses involved like gum and hardboard for support. At best, every household can churn out 3-4 kg of packets per day. This means earnings of about Rs 100-120 for their effort.
“We have to purchase the newspaper in bulk. Not all of them are usable. Many have stains, some are torn and soggy. Wastage is nearly 20 per cent. It gets more difficult during the monsoons when the material is damp. It is hard work to make these packets and all we get is about Rs 100 a day. We don’t go around distributing the packets to shops. There are people who collect them from us. They make a profit too,” Sunita, a homemaker from Baguihati said.