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UP Govt’s Closure Notice to 60 Factories to Hit Cane Farmers Hard in Peak Season

The decision, ahead of the Ardh Kumbh Mela, is likely to also impact hundreds of workers in paper mills and distilleries in Western Uttar Pradesh.

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The Yogi Adityanath-led government has given a notice to almost 60 factories in Western Uttar Pradesh for offloading their waste in Ganga and Yamuna rivers, causing widespread water pollution. The decision, taken ahead of the Ardh Kumbh Mela from January 14 to March 4, has created some tension in the area as it has disrupted work in sugarcane and paper mill as well as in distilleries.

The rivers of Western UP merge in the Sangam, which is the amalgamation of three rivers -- Ganga, Yamuna and Sarawasti – which is why the step is being taken, an official told Newsclick.

On Tuesday, the Yogi government took a decision to close 60 factories, including tanneries operating in Kanpur and Unnao, from December 15 to March 15, to provide clean water for devotees participating in the upcoming Ardh Kumbh festival.

"The idea is to ensure that the Ganga remains non-polluted and that devotees who go to the biggest religious congregation get pure and clear water," the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) official told IANS.

Closure orders for the remaining 28 tanneries in the Chabilapurwa locality are likely to be issued later, sources said.

More than 15 tanneries in Unnao have already been closed for the period of Kumbh, though tanneries which have treatment plants for their hazardous waste have been spared.

Impact on Cane Farmers

Speaking with Newsclick over the issue, NK Shukla, Joint Secretary of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), said: "This decision by the government is anti-people and anti-farmer. The farmers who have sown sugarcane will face huge losses if cane factories are shut down. Workers in these factories wiil also face unemployment. In the name of water pollution, this government is doing injustice to the farmers."

The decision, which comes during the peak sugarcane season, Shukla said, will badly impact factories as sugarcane still in the fields will reach the till March. “This move will surely kill the farmers", he added.

Former president of AIKS in UP, DP Singh, told Newsclick, "This is an absolutely unjustified and arbitrary decision taken on religious basis,” alleging that this “is a trick to shut the factories because the mills have not paid the farmers in a long time. By doing so, sugar mill owners will get an excuse to not pay farmers on the plea that the factories were shut. In sab me kisan hamesha maara jata hai (Amid all this, it is the farmers who will bear the worst brunt). 

Paper Mills, Workers to be Hit

It is estimated that the decision could lead to Rs. 3,600 crore loss to paper mills in region in three months. “We have calculated the loss of revenue which is Rs. 40 crore daily and 15,000 tonnes of production loss per day. This decision will create trouble for corrugation units in procuring the raw material for box. It is a perplexing situation for us. How can we retain our buyers (corrugators) in this critical three months as they will definitely search for new markets or suppliers for boxes,” Arvind Agarwal, president of NCR Paper Mills Association and Managing Director of Paswara Papers Ltd. told online website, The Pulp and Paper Times.

The 'Clean Ganga Truth'

After Narenrda Modi assumed power as Prime Minister in 2014, he had announced an initiative, namely 'Namami Gange’, to clean Ganga waters. But a report based on an RTI tells a different story. As per the report, the pollution level in river Ganga has overshot the levels recorded in 2014 and especially, in Modi’s constituency, Varanasi. Lab tests have found that bacterial contamination is higher than the levels recorded previously in 2014.

Also Read : Ahead of Kumbh Mela, Adityanath Govt’s 3-Month Closure Jolts Kanpur Leather Cluster

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