The Kanpur tannery industry facing an indefinite shutdown has put employment of about a million people, both direct and indirect, in jeopardy.
The nearly 150-year-old Kanpur tannery sector was served with the notice for closure between December 15, 2018 to March 15, 2019 for ensuring cleaner Ganga during the 2019 Kumbh Mela at downstream Prayagraj (Allahabad). However, even after the cultivation of Kumbh Mela last month, tanneries have still not been back to operating mode.
As a result, tannery producers have resorted to other locations for shifting of units, especially Kolkata in West Bengal. About a dozen entrepreneurs have already received allotment letters from the West Bengal government for setting up their plants.
The prime reason behind the continuing shutdown is that the tannery sector lacks the requisite clearance certificate issued by Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB). Earlier, UPPCB directed Kanpur Electricity Supply Company Limited (KESCO) to cut the electricity supply to tanneries located in the largest tannery hub of Jajmau area so that the shutdown order was effectively implemented.
Once referred to as the ‘Manchester of the East’ owing to a flourishing textiles industry, held on to its reputation of being one of the leading finished leather and leather goods hub to the present times. However, the sector now seeks a bleak future.
About 0.5 million workers working in Kanpur leather industry were migrants, belonging to Bihar and other Eastern UP districts. The shutdown has affected their livelihoods and most of them have already left the city.
“The tannery issue is directly related to the livelihood of people, especially poor and marginalised sections. There is obviously angst among the affected people over the issue. And, we see no succour forthcoming from authorities or the government,” said Small Tanners’ Association member Nayyar Jamal.
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