No country for tanneries -Moumita Chaudhuri
The troubles of the tanning industry are many. From Kanpur to Calcutta, it has turned into one big leather-hunt
In May 2018, the Uttar Pradesh (UP) government announced that tanneries in Jajmau in Kanpur would close down for three months between December and March during the Kumbh Mela. Reason: to keep the river waters clean during the Hindu festival wherein millions of pilgrims take a dip at the confluence of the Ganges and the Yamuna. The March 15 deadline has long expired but the tanneries — close to 400 of them — are yet to start operating. Several lakhs of people are facing an uncertain future.
In February, around the same time when the leather industry in Kanpur was grinding to a halt, the Bengal chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, announced at the annual Bengal Global Business Summit 2019 that she would allocate land to businessmen to set up tanneries in Calcutta. By March 2019, 29 people were given land allotment papers in the 1,150-acre Calcutta Leather Complex (CLC) in Bantala on the eastern fringes of the city.
These many months later, the 29 parties from Kanpur have been allotted land. It will take 12-18 months before they become operational.
Taj Alam is the vice-chairman of the UP Leather Industries Association, Unnao chapter. He owns a tannery and also has a factory that makes value-added leather products. His is a 100 per cent export business and he has been working in this industry for four decades. Speaking over phone from Unnao, he says, “Leather business from Kanpur and Unnao would yield around Rs 4,000 crore a month. Till 2005, the tanneries did not have to shut down for a single day for the Kumbh Mela. It was the golden period for tanneries. But thereafter, successive governments — the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Samajwadi Party and now the Bharatiya Janata Party — imposed rules on us.”
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