Three months long Kumbh Mela is closing to its end which will be remembered for better management, sanitation, business and tourism industry.
But the darker side of this mega festival of pilgrims is that it has broken the back of Kanpur’s leather industry. Kanpur is world famous for its leather industry. The businessmen are counting days that the Kumbh Mela ends and their closed factories could be reopened. But many entrepreneurs have completely lost their hope to reopen their leather factories.
Kanpur’s leather industry is considered to be one of the major pollutants for Ganga. And the leather industry of Kanpur faces many restrictions from the pollution control board to the National Green Authority (NGT) to save and clean Ganga projects.
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Due to many years of pressure, all the small leather units of Jajmau in Kanpur have to set up pollution control plants. Struggling with such restrictions, Kanpur’s leather industry was trying to save its existence in some way.
On November 16, 2018, during the CM Yogi Adityanath’s Kanpur visit, he expressed his disappointment over the dirt falling in the Ganga and rebuked the officers and the engineers. The authorities blamed the leather industry of Jajamau for it. However, the Regional Pollution Control Board issued an order to close the tanneries.
This one-sided action agitated tannery owners. It was an injustice against them in a way. Therefore, the ‘Jal Nigam’ who is responsible for cleaning the emissions of the Jajamau leather industry said “the repairing of the treatment plant is underway so that the dirt is falling in the Ganga.” He also said that the repair work will be completed by 30 November and then the pollution of tanneries will be stopped automatically.
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Finally, on November 16, 2018, an order came from the UP Government to close the tanners. However, after a lot of controversy on December 9, the Chief Environment Officer from Pollution Control Board TU Khan, allowed to start 250 tanners of Jajamau in another 1200 page orders. Although, there was a condition that it will be run on less than 50% capacity till the next order.
In order to stop polluting Ganga during the Kumbh, the Chief Minister issued an order to close all the tanners of Jajmau for the period of three months from December 15, 2018, to 15 March 2019. The Chief Minister’s order affected Jajamau’s 268 tanneries. They had to shut down all their work in one stroke.
There are about 400 tanneries in Jajmau area. Among these, more than 100 tanneries have already been closed due to many reasons, the remaining 268 is being temporarily closed. The tannery entrepreneurs of Kanpur believe that this move of the government has broken the back of the industry. According to them, the remaining units have to bear an extra expenditure of Rs. 10 lakh per month for the maintenance of electricity and cleaning.
Currently, the leather traders of Jajamau are waiting for March 15 to end the restriction of the Kumbh. Although nobody is expecting any compensation for the loses.
The Vice President of Uttar Pradesh Leather Industries Association (UPIA), Iftikharul Amin said, “There are about one lakh people working in the leather industry in Kanpur. Thousands of daily salaried workers are jobless during this time. Export orders worth 12,000 crores which we received from abroad were also cancelled. Our business has gone six months behind”.
Leather businessmen of Kanpur are ready to do any effort to control pollution. Javed Iqbal, the local president of Leather Export Council says, “We are ready to meet all the standards of the environment but government machinery does not cooperate. Instead of giving us facilities, we put different kinds of obstacles while we are one of the largest exporters of Uttar Pradesh. Unless the government wishes, our condition will not improve”.
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After the coming of Yogi Aditynath in Uttar Pradesh government, there is a massive damage to the leather industry of Kanpur due to restrictions on slaughterhouses. These restrictions raise the question on their existence. Now, the leather entrepreneurs are looking at other places in Kanpur. Various exemptions were announced to woo the leather businessmen of Kanpur in the Bengal Global Business Summit held in Kolkata in January this year.
In this summit, 11 businessmen from Kanpur have been given 3 to 5 thousand square meters of land for tanneries. More than 40 businessmen along with West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mishra are planning to go there.
People are helplessly waiting for the Kumbh to end so that work can resume but there is a fear that things may not be the same. Now, it is the responsibility of the state government to come forward to save the oldest leather industry and provide the opportunities to grow along with environmental restrictions.