Tannery owners block highway to protest power disconnection in Kanpur
A day after the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) ordered the district authorities to disconnect power supply of all the 225 existing tanneries in the city, thousands of tannery owners and workers blocked the Kanpur-Lucknow highway for over eight hours to protest against the decision on Thursday.
According to police, when they tried to clear the highway, the protesters allegedly began pelting stones at them and also damaged a few vehicles, following which the cops had to cane charge them.
SSP Kanpur Anant Deo said no one was injured in the stone pelting and the situation was brought under control withing minutes.
Struggling with the closure of leather tanning units for the last six months, the tannery owners and workers took to the streets when the city administration attempted to disconnect electricity in the tanneries in Jajmau in the wee hours of Thursday.
Hundreds of protesters gathered at the highway around 7 am and the number began to swell as the day progressed, resulting in long traffic snarls on the highway.
The protesters raised anti-government slogans and demanded suspension of the drive to disconnect power supply as well as an early solution regarding the closed units.
On seeing the tension mount, the district administration deferred the electricity disconnection drive.
After speaking to tannery owners, district magistrate Vijay Vishwas Pant said it has been decided that the drive will remain suspended till Ramzan while tannery owners will ensure that their units are not operational.
The protests came a day before National Green Tribunal (NGT)’s review meeting with officials of UPPCB and district administration to be held in Delhi on Friday to decide the fate of these tanneries.
Nayyar Jamal, president of Small Tanners’ Association said the tanners were facing hardships because of the mess created by the pollution board and Jal Nigam.
“The government’s decision to close the tanneries is a big blow. Five lakh people have been affected and the industry is in ruins. Workers and their families are surviving on ‘Iftari’ as they don’t have money to buy food. The disconnection will cause us a lot of trouble; everyone knows how difficult it is to get an electricity connection,” said Asad Iraqi, a tannery owner.
The tanneries situated on the banks of Ganga in Jajmau were shut in November 2018 by the state government in order to check water pollution ahead of the Kumbh 2019 in Prayagraj. The ban was supposed to be lifted in March but till date the tanneries are lying closed rendering many workers jobless and forcing others to migrate.
During a recent inspection, four tanneries were found to be operating in Jajmau, on the basis of which the pollution board issued an order to disconnect the electricity of all 225 tanneries. Consequently, the district magistrate constituted teams of magistrates and KESCO engineers for the purpose. The teams were asked to submit their reports with certificate of disconnection by 4 pm on May 18.