There’s more on the paper plate that holds a spicy samosa or a sumptuous sandwich that a Delhi street-food vendor or a hospital canteen serve.
These plates were made from hard-paper immunisation cards that every government hospital was supposed to provide to parents of newborns for monitoring their vaccination schedules.
The Union health ministry prints every month lakhs of such cards so that vaccination of children – till they reach the age of five – for diseases such as cholera, polio, tetanus and others could be recorded.
Instead of being supplied to the government hospitals across the country, these cards have landed in the Capital’s scrap market.
These were then sold on the cheap to people making paper plates.
These cards then land in tea shops and street-food vends, mostly in the old Delhi area, in the form of highly-durable plates.
‘I bought these plates from the Malka Ganj area to serve samosas and sandwiches. These are cheap and hard.
‘These don’t break or crumple when we put a hot, oily samosa on it along with the chutney,’ tea and snacks seller Ram Dayal said.
These plates find their way to the canteens of Aruna Asaf Ali Hospital and Hindu Rao Hospital, too.
‘I have no idea about the source of the plates. I bought them from a supplier,’ the person manning the canteen at Aruna Asaf Ali Hospital said.
A scrap dealer in the Malka Ganj area said he wouldn’t be able to identify the people who sold the cards.
‘I found these in the wastepaper bundles. For me it’s just scrap. I buy and sell them to people who make envelopes and paper plates,’ scrap-seller Ambrish Kumar said.
A rudimentary calculation would be enough to gauge the enormity of the wastage.
Here’s a hypothetical calculation: If each card costs Rs5 per card to make, the government is spending Rs5 lakh of taxpayers’ money for a bunch of 100,000.
These cards were supplied to Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) hospitals as well.
But neither the hospital authorities nor the government were aware of these vaccination cards landing in the scrap market.
‘We didn’t know that. This is serious and should be investigated. We will definitely ask the police to find the guilty people.
‘They should be caught and punished,’ Dr V.K. Monga, chairman of the MCD’s health committee, said.
‘Government stationary cannot be wasted. Government money is hard-earned money and it is answerable for each and every rupee spent on projects and schemes,’ he added.