Venkat: Paper Day is must to dispel myths on paper

A Annamalai Venkat, president of Federation of Paper Traders' Associations of India (FPTA) speaks to PrintWeek India on the need of Paper Day in India and the efforts taken by his association to make it a grand success

08 Aug 2018 | By Sriraam Selvam

Annamalai Venkat

Why do you think Paper Day celebrations are significant?
During the year 2014-15 it was felt that a lot of negative campaign on paper was being spread by vested interest and there was no one in the entire chain right from manufacturers to the ultimate consumer were keen in countering this negative campaign though the necessity was felt.  It was then FPTA decided to form a new committee called “Public Awareness Committee”.  After the committee formation, the first initiative we took was to organise a seminar on ‘Myths and Facts of Paper’ on the sidelines of Paperex South 2014. 

The negative campaign on paper was becoming a fashion. A person or an organisation speaking against usage of paper emanating wrong data were considered champions of fighting deforestation, pollution etc. The paper fraternity had to responsibly communicate that all what is propagated is either inflated and far from truth, else the false propaganda could be presumed to be true by the general public.

Paper which is the primary medium for spreading education and knowledge, an eco-friendly substrate for the goods to reach the consumer intact, a product which improves the health and hygiene of the people was subject to systematic onslaught from different quarters. Though there were many ways to reach out to the common man, it was felt that celebrating one particular day as Paper Day would give us a mass and effective platform wherein we can take facts of papermaking to the general public.

How did everything fall in place for this years’ inaugural celebration?
In the managing committee meeting of FPTA held at Nagpur during the year 2015-16, A Natesan, former president, FPTA had proposed the concept of celebrating a particular day as Paper Day in order to reach out more effectively to the common man.  It was unanimously approved and FPTA had started working immediately on the concept from the day it was approved by the house. It was also felt that we should involve the entire chain in the paper industry to make the campaign more effective. 

A series of meeting were held with representatives of the industry associations like IPMA, IARMA, IRMA, INMA, IPPTA during the year 2016-17. These meetings resulted in formation of a coordinating committee to work in unison to effectively celebrate Paper Day.  Satyapal Gupta former president of FPTA was unanimously made the convener of this committee. This committee subsequently decided that 1st August every year will be celebrated as Paper Day.  1 August 1940 is the day the foundation stone was laid by Pandit Jawarharlal Nehru for the Handmade Paper Institute, Pune by Dr Joshi.  It was the father of our nation Mahatma Gandhiji who had advised Dr Joshi to start this institute.  Further, it was from the paper manufactured by this institute on which our Indian Constitution had been written.

When was the decision first announced?
Taking advantage of the Paperex 2017, FPTA took the lead of organising a curtain raiser programme on the sidelines of Paperex.  Office bearers of the coordinating associations were present on the dais apart from Dr Harshvardhan, union minister of environment and forests, Vijay Goel, minister for parliamentary affairs and Haspathi Singania, chairman of JK Corporation. This meeting was a bugle for the first every Paper Day celebrations.  A paper day flag and a paper anthem were unveiled.

What are the various activities that your association conducted?
At an All India Level we had the following common activities: drawing competitions for children on the topic “My Garden”, essay writing competitions on the topic “Paper and its Uses” and “Paper spreads Literacy” was conducted.

Common posters highlighting the myths and facts of paper was created with primary design in English and was translated into local languages by our affiliate associations to have an effective reach. “Customised My Stamp” by the Postal Department was released with FPTA image, Paper Day logo and stating 1 August as Paper Day. It also has the image of Mahatma Gandhiji in the cover sheet.  It is understood that this is the first ever ‘Customised My Stamp’ which has an image of Mahatma Gandhiji in this cover sheet.  A special first-day cover was also released by the postal department. A short-animated film with the myths and facts of papermaking was also circulated.

Over 2000 of our members including officials across India were sporting the same t-shirt with the FPTA, Paper Day logo with a Love Paper and 1 August – Paper Day message printed on it.

Paper awareness talk by our members across India in schools and colleges were done apart from organizing paper mill visits for school children to establish that paper can be effectively recycled. Newspaper advertisement, awareness rallies by walk and two-wheelers were also carried out. We also tied-up with an online education provider to reach over 2 lakh students. 

Short videos, awareness essays and creative writing on an advantage of paper over other substrate were the topics in which the children actively participated.

The above is just a few of the activities which were carried out by our members across India.  There were many more innovative ways in which our members reached out to the common man.

Are there any follow-up activities from the celebrations? Will this be an annual event?
At FPTA we are proposing to have this campaign as a yearlong activity which will culminate in Paper Day on 1 August.  Our coordinating team will meet and give us further direction in this regard. Henceforth it will be an annual affair with much more intensity.

What do you think are the biggest outcomes from this initiative?
The biggest outcome is that the common man is more aware that paper is not all that bad as it is projected to be.  People must be aware that paper is from a sustainable source, it is biodegradable and recyclable.  All products we consume has an impact on the environment in one form or the other, so does paper.  What is unique about the paper is that the trees planted by the industry give back something to the nature (which probably many other products do not do – they only deplete).

This has also given a platform for all the affiliate associations to work with a uniform pattern across India.  Further, this initiative has educated many of our members who themselves were not aware of the facts. Close coordination amongst the trade, industry and consumers is yet another positive outcome of this initiative.

Did the initiative receive Government support?
No. However the coordinating committee will work towards getting Paper Day recognized by the Government of India.

What is the status of the paper trader industry in lieu of the raw material hike plus anti-dumping duty?
Frequent price revisions on account of firm international pulp prices have put the trading community into a lot of disadvantages. Whereas we are committed to supply to our customers at the contracted prices, the industry adopts prices ruling ‘at the time of dispatch’ as its pricing policy. This has put a number of our fellow traders into monetary loss.  Further frequent price increases also impact sales in the short run.  Higher prices mean proportionate higher investment by the trader with proportionate lower return on money invested.

Where you see paper prices one year from now?
Paper prices are likely to remain firm or marginally go up due to firm international pulp prices. Industry experts believe that this trend is likely to continue and we can see a strong pricing till the end of the next paper season (May 2019).