The indefinite shutdown of the Kanpur tannery industry, that provides direct and indirect employment to about a million people, is staring at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the industrial town of Kanpur, ahead of polling in the 4th phase on Monday.
The nearly 150-year-old Kanpur tannery sector, part of the Rs 12,000 crore composite Kanpur leather belt, which also includes adjacent Unnao district, were 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 culmination of the Kumbh last month, a majority of Kanpur tanneries remained shut as green watchdog Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) did not issue the requisite clearance certificate.
Earlier, UPPCB had directed city discom 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.
In desperation, a few tannery operators have already started looking at other avenues and are mulling shifting units to other states, especially Kolkata in West Bengal. About a dozen entrepreneurs have already received allotment letters from the West Bengal government for setting up their plants.
Kanpur, which was earlier 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, leather manufacturers see a bleak future for the industry going forward owing to environmental concerns.
“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,” Small Tanners’ Association member Nayyar Jamal told Business Standard. He lamented there was no succour forthcoming from authorities or the government.
He informed that nearly 50% or 0.5 million workers engaged in the Kanpur leather industry were migrants, belonging to Bihar and other Eastern UP districts. “Since, the tanneries are closed, most of these workers have already left Kanpur,” Jamal said.
Kanpur is among the major domestic leather processing hubs apart from Jalandhar, Kolkata, Chennai etc.
Leather industrialists had approached UP MSME minister Satyadev Pachauri, who is also the ruling BJP Lok Sabha candidate from Kanpur City constituency, however, he reportedly referred to the tough environmental norms and clean Ganga mission of the government.
In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi had defeated Congress’ three time sitting Member of Parliament (MP) Sriprakash Jaiswal by more than 200,000 votes. Jaiswal is again trying his luck as a Congress candidate. He defeated Pachauri in 2004 Lok Sabha elections by a narrow margin of about 5,000 votes.
There are more than 1.6 million electorates in Kanpur City constituency, which would witness voting along with 12 other constituencies in UP on April 29.