The Karnataka Government is likely to rescind its decision to scrap consumer goods conglomerate ITC’s CSR initiative to work with Chikkamagaluru City Municipal Council (CMC) in managing the Malnad town’s solid waste.
ITC and Chikkamagaluru CMC entered into an MoU in August 2017. But the government cancelled the project in September 2019 after the State Tobacco Control Cell alleged the Wealth out of Waste (WOW) initiative violated the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA). The Health Department wrote to the Chikkamagaluru district administration to reconsider the decision and suggested it go ahead with the ITC initiative.
ITC claimed the project envisaged enabling segregation of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste at source to reduce the quantity going to landfill. In September, it had written to the Chikkamagaluru CMC and the health department, requesting for reconsideration of the MoU.
In an earlier communication to the health department, ITC had pointed out that more than 60 per cent of its business is to do with non-tobacco products. The cell’s reply to the department said: “ITC is manufacturing tobacco products and falls under ‘tobacco industry’ definition/list. It used its logo in waste carrybags and other promotional aids under WOW. It’s a violation of COTPA Section 5, which mandates ‘Prohibition of Brand Promotion of All Tobacco products’. Section 2 states ‘its expedient in public interest that the government should take under its control the tobacco industry’.
However, the department said the initiative has no room for any overt and covert advertisements by ITC. “The company is doing it through trust. Therefore, the notice under COTPA is unwarranted in the present case,” the department’s letter read, citing the opinion of health commissioner Pankaj Kumar Pandey.
“The directive that solid waste management-related activities don’t come under COTPA will be sent to other local bodies too,” said Pandey. Chikkamagaluru DC Bagadi Gautham said the issue will be re-examined strictly.