At least 12 tanneries in Kanpur have been allotted land by the West Bengal government to shift their operations to the state. The allotments were made during the Bengal Global Business Summit.
There are 400 tanneries in Kanpur and 40 in neighbouring Unnao district. The UP government had issued a directive to shut these tanneries from December 15, 2018,Unn to March 2019 to stop waste disposal in the Ganga during the Kumbh Mela at Prayagraj.
Around four months ago, 80 industrialists in Kanpur applied for land to the West Bengal government to shift their tanneries. Two weeks ago, 12 applications were approved and the applicants were told to collect the allotment letters on Friday, the second day of the Bengal Global Business Summit.
“The letters have been issued by the Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises and Textiles Department. The West Bengal government is giving us land at the rate of Rs 2,150/sq metre in Bantala area where Kolkata’s leather industry is situated,” Javed Iqbal, Regional Chairman, Council for Leather Export (Central region, Kanpur), told The Indian Express.
“We have been told by the government during a meeting that allotment letters to other applicants would be sent directly to them soon after the approval,” Iqbal said.
Reached for comment, UP Health Minister Sidharth Nath Singh said: “It is up to the owners to decide where to set up their business. Wherever they go, they will have to follow guidelines of the National Green Tribunal and the Supreme Court.” He said the state government would not interfere. UP Leather Industries Association spokesperson Ashraf Rizwan said: “The tannery owners had also requested the West Bengal government to build a common effluent treatment plant for them.”
“We chose to shift our tanneries to Bengal because Kolkata is a metropolitan city and has an international airport. To export goods from Kanpur, we pay around Rs 50,000 per container for the journey to the seaport. In Kolkata, the sea is closer. Labour hands are also easily available there,” Rizwan said.
The tannery owners claimed that for the last two-and-half years, their business was getting hit. “We have been falsely accused of polluting the Ganga. The industry has always been under threat of orders to shut down the tanneries completely. Hence, we decided to shift to the other state,” said Ashraf, also a tannery owner in Kanpur.
UP Leather Industries Association vice-president Iftakhar said around one lakh people used to work in these tanneries and after the closure, daily-wage workers from other states have returned home.
“Tanneries in Kanpur and Unnao had a turnover of Rs 7,000 crore and that has been hit badly. So far, only owners of big tanneries have decided to shift to West Bengal,” said Hafizur Rahman, president of the Small Tanners’ Association.