MUMBAI (Reuters) – India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tribute to the “father of the nation” Mahatma Gandhi on the 150th anniversary of his birth at his memorial in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Alongside political figures, school children, and the public also assembled at the memorial to pay their respects.
India observes Oct. 2 not only as Gandhi’s birthday but also as International Day of Non-Violence, the ideal that Gandhi fought for throughout his life.
Gandhi, who was born in 1869, played a key role in India’s fight for independence. He was assassinated by a Hindu radical on Jan. 30, 1948, just a few months after he led India to freedom from British rule through a non-violent struggle.
India celebrated the anniversary by organising cleanliness drives, film screenings and making a giant spinning wheel made out of plastic waste.
“The whole world is celebrating the birth anniversary of Gandhi,” Modi said.
Modi has often evoked Gandhi in his speeches, saying his ideas and philosophies are as relevant today as they were during his lifetime.
On the outskirts of the capital New Delhi, government officials erected a 1,650 kg spinning wheel, an important symbol associated with Gandhi, made entirely out of plastic waste. Gandhi used a spinning wheel to spin his own cloth in a gesture of independence and Indian self sufficiency.
Officials told local media that the wheel was symbolic of the Modi regime’s commitment to move away from the use of single-use plastic.
In his speech, Modi called on the nation to work toward ending the consumption of single-use plastics by 2022.
“Hygiene, protection of environment and protection of life were of keen interest to Gandhi,” said Modi, “Plastic is dangerous to all these three goals. So we need to reach the goal of ending single-use plastic by 2022.”
Meanwhile, India held off a plan to impose a blanket ban on single-use plastics as it was seen as a measure too disruptive for industry at a time when India is dealing with an economic slowdown and job losses, officials told Reuters on Tuesday.
In a tweet on Wednesday, India’s environment ministry however, denied that it had planned to issue a ban.
“India, today is on the verge of starting a historic movement against #SingleUsePlastic, setting an example for the world. At such a time, discovering a shelved ban, when none was planned is indeed misleading & doesn’t do justice to its fight against single use plastic,” the ministry said in a tweet.
Reuters had in August reported that India was set to impose a nationwide ban on plastic bags, cups and straws on Oct. 2, in a sweeping measure to stamp out single-use plastics from cities and villages that rank among the world’s most polluted.
Concerns are growing worldwide about plastic pollution, especially in oceans, where nearly 50% of single-use plastic products end up, killing marine life and entering the human food chain, studies have shown.