Kanpur: As tanneries in the city reopen after a month-long ban on operations in view of the Maha Kumbh Mela, they find themselves faced with another crisis - that of labour.
Rendered without a source of income by the ban, almost 70 percent of the daily wage-earners who made up the workforce at these units have migrated in search of work to Gujarat or Punjab.
"Being daily-wage earners, these workers were hard done by the ban on operations as it robbed them of their source of income. Thus they were forced to move elsewhere for jobs," said Imran Siddiqui, the chairman of the Northern India Tannery Employees` Association.
Owners of tanneries are now complaining that labourers who have stayed back are demanding exorbitant wages for their services.
The local administration had advised tanneries in the area to suspend operations between January 11 to February 13 and then between February 22-24 and March 6-9 to ensure that the Ganga was pollution-free during the Kumbh Mela.
The first cycle of ban, which got over on February 13, industry sources claim, has resulted in losses of Rs 1,000 crore.
It also put approximately 70,000 labourers out of work, 90 per cent of whom were members of the Dalit community while the remaining were drawn from amongst the minority section.
Although the workers had written to the labour department and also organised protests against the ban, they received no response from authorities concerned.
Now, more than half that population has moved out of the city in search of employment, leaving the tannery owners in a predicament.
Zonal director of the Pollution Control Board, VK Mishra, said the tanneries have been allowed to recommence production and added that the future course of action regarding the subsequent bans would be decided after discussions with tannery owners and the district administration.