A slaughterhouse in the Qaiserbagh area of Lucknow wears a deserted look after the ban on illegal abattoirs came into effect in March. The ban has cut supply of buffalo hides to leather industry across the country.(HT Photo)
A slaughterhouse in the Qaiserbagh area of Lucknow wears a deserted look after the ban on illegal abattoirs came into effect in March. The ban has cut supply of buffalo hides to leather industry across the country.(HT Photo)

UP slaughterhouse crackdown: Leather, cricket balls and footwear may get costlier

The ban on illegal slaughterhouses in Uttar Pradesh which has also led to the shutdown of many legal abattoirs due to violations of one law or another, is beginning to affect the leather industry across the country because half of the raw materials used to come from UP.
By Gulam Jeelani and Suchetana Ray | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 07, 2017 06:57 PM IST

You may have to shell out extra money for a pair of Kolhapuri chappals or a fancy leather handbag if the ban on illegal slaughterhouses in Uttar Pradesh continues and if other states decide to follow suit.

From car upholstery to ladies’ purses, it is mainly buffalo hide that is used. The mass closure of slaughterhouses in Uttar Pradesh has not only left many people in the meat business jobless but is threatening to affect the livelihood of tens of thousands of others associated with auxiliary sectors relying on meat and by-products in other states as well.

The multiplicity of laws has also meant that many legal abattoirs in UP have also been shut for failing to comply with an assortment of legal formalities.

The manufacturing of cricket balls, volley balls, the lucrative leather industry, soaps, handicraft, to name a few, are among 168 allied industries that depend on meat industry in India now find themselves in the line of fire over the slaughterhouse ban.

Uttar Pradesh where Yogi Adityanath government launched a crackdown on illegal slaughterhouses is the main source of buffalo hide for the leather industry, which in turn is used for 50% of products sold in the country as well as exported.

Already hit due to currency fluctuations and declining demand in Europe, the ban on slaughterhouses can only add to the woes of the leather industry’s falling exports.

After being shaken up by demonetisation, the crackdown on slaughterhouses has led to a production cut of 40% in the leather industry which was growing at the rate of 15% and was expected to touch $27 billion in the next five years from the current $12 billion before the government announced the note ban last November.

Here is how the ban is affecting different sectors in different states.

Uttar Pradesh

The state is the main source of buffalo hide for the industry countrywide. In Kanpur’s Penchbagh alone, around 40,000 people are employed at 600 leather industry godowns. While half of the godowns closed down in the aftermath of demonetisation, 100 other had to down their shutters after the ban on illegal slaughterhouses.

“A godown would receive 10 trucks a day earlier, now it is one truck a day. If the ban gets prolonged the supply will stop completely,” says Sikandar, a labour contractor.

In Agra too, the tourism and footwear industry -- backbone of the local economy-- is going through bad times as the crackdown on slaughterhouses has led to closure of meat shops.

“We are not against action for closing down the illegal slaughter houses but the way crackdown has taken place, it is sure to affect cross sections of society,” said Sami Aghai, president of Bhartiya Muslim Vikas Parishad.

Major leather industries in Agra and Kanpur employ around 10 lakh people, according to Aghai.

In the state capital Lucknow, a number of small industries like bone carving depends on slaughterhouses for the supply of bones. As many as 350 families are still engaged in the rare trade of bone carving. These craftsmen used to procure buffalo bones from the city’s three slaughterhouses that have been closed down in the crackdown.

“I am into this trade as I want to keep my family’s legacy alive and so the city’s age old tradition of bone carving that is some 400-year-old art,” Israr Ahmed, a bone carver who has crafted thousands of artefacts in past four decades and is a President’s award winner, told HT.

Maharashtra

The famous handcrafted Kolhapuri footwear made in Kolhapur town of Maharashtra will also bear the brunt of the slaughterhouse ban as most of the raw material supply comes from UP, especially after the state government banned beef in 2015. There are industrial clusters in Kolhapur that employ over 6000 people to make these chappals.

The industrial clusters in Kolhapur have seen mass unemployment since 2015 with the ban on slaughter of cows, bull, bullock and buffalos in Maharashtra. From 6000 workers in 2015, only 500 workers remain now and the lack of steady supply of leather has meant 60% reduction in the production of chappals.

“From a turnover of Rs 1800 crore in 2014, we don’t even make Rs 800 crore now in the industrial cluster,” says Ashok Shankar Gaikwad, President of Kolhapur Charmodyog Samuh.

West Bengal

In West Bengal, one of the few where cow slaughter is allowed along with that of ox and buffalo, hide processors, leather industry, footwear industry, restaurants and other industries thrive on the meat business which also depends on supply from UP.

Apart from workers at slaughterhouses and leather goods export houses, the unorganized sector has over 10 lakh labourers which include animal loaders, workers in hide and leather industry, rickshaw pullers and others. In case the slaughterhouse ban in UP is extended, these sectors may be affected.

“I have 34 workers with me. I pay Rs 3000 to Rs 5000 weekly wages, apart from food. I have stopped paying them because I have no work,” said Md Shamim Quraishi who deals in raw hide. He said since cow and buffalo supply has dwindled from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, the leather industry in Bengal is facing a shortage of raw hides.

Punjab

With the banning of slaughterhouses in UP, leather industry in Jalandhar city will be affected deeply as it is widely dependent on the business. The traders are expecting the rates of hides to go high by at least 30%. Over 10,000 employees associated with the leather industry are expected to be affected due to the ban.

“Now the cost of raw material might increase up to 25-30%,” said Col Jagjit Singh Paul, president of Punjab leather federation. Besides, around 70 sport goods units will be affected directly or indirectly due to the ban on illegal slaughterhouses in UP. Volleyball, cricket and baseball are all made up of leather that is imported from western UP.

Ravinder Dhir, President, Sports Forum, said that around 4000 people are directly employed in the sports goods industry.

“There will be no immediate effect due to the crackdown but it will definitely become a big problem for us if it continues,” he told HT.

(With inputs from Ravik Bhattacharya in Kolkata, Haider Naqvi in Kanpur, Hemendra Chaturvedi in Agra, Aakanksha Bhardwaj in Jalandhar and Oliver Fredrick in Lucknow)

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