The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Seize-and-seal blow to tanners

Nov. 22: The Supreme Court today ordered the Bengal government to seize and seal tanneries, if they continue to refuse to shift from eastern Calcutta.

“It will be open to the authorities to stop operation of the tanneries in these areas (Tangra, Tiljala and Topsia) and evict the tanners. If they do not close their units, the authorities would be open to seize and seal their premises. They will not be entitled to any form of stay from the courts,” the court said.

Citing pollution, the court had issued a directive in 1996 to relocate around 600 tanneries to the Bantala Leather Complex, India’s first integrated facility for the purpose. The transfer deadline, twice renewed, expired on February 28 this year.

The tanners, however, blame the government for not completing the effluent and waste management centre at the complex, as a result of which many of them have not been able to shift.

The government has snapped power supply to the units in Tangra. But the court said the government was showing “some laxity”.

The judges refused to hear the representations of the tanners and directed them to file affidavits in 15 days, stating voluntary closure of their units, the effluents of which were polluting the Hooghly. The next hearing will be held on December 3.

Calcutta Leather and Tannery Manufacturers’ Association spokesman Javed Khan said in Calcutta an emergency meeting would be convened on the issue.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee has said he would write to commerce and industry minister Nirupam Sen, proposing an assessment of the Bantala site by leaders of the big trade unions.

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