India sees ‘a meltdown for small scale leather industry’

A leather dealer in his sixties, sitting in his shop of Agra’s leather market, Mohammad Hashim said, his business is fallen by 40% in the last three months.

A market where the leather industry was surviving since centuries, has now seen a crackdown in the last three months. The right wing party, since it came to power was propelled to save the animal, they find sacred.

Hurting economy, as well as the choice of food, became a point of discussion everywhere. The meat industry was hit severely in Uttar Pradesh when unlicensed abattoirs started closing down in March this year.

BJP led government last month banned other animals also and the rules stated that no carcases can be sold for the leather purpose, without even giving second thoughts to what will it fetch to the leather industry as well as to the farmers.

“The recent scarcity of hides had hurt Hindus as much as Muslims, he said, pointing to the quiet streets outside and a Hindu man struggling to sell puffed rice snacks from his cart,” said Mohammad Hashim, the leather dealer said in a report by The Hindu.

Millions work in the meat and leather industries, which are worth more than $16 billion in annual sales. Like meat, India’s leather industry has expanded rapidly in the last 10 year, giving livelihood to thousands of families.

Agra, in Uttar Pradesh, manufactures a million pairs of shoes a day for domestic buyers and European labels such as Inditex-owned Zara and Clarks. An estimated 40% of the population of the northern Indian city depends on the industry.

Clarks said in a statement that it does not use leather from Indian-origin cows and that the small amount of buffalo leather it sources from India had not been impacted. Zara did not respond to requests for comment.

India is one of the world’s top five producers of leather, with skins coming from cows that die of natural causes or from the legal slaughter of buffalo.

PM Modi’s government is targeting leather revenues of $27 billion — more than double today’s level — by 2020 as part of a job creation. Contradicting the ‘Jumla’, the government said that animal markets could only trade cow and buffalo for agricultural purposes such as ploughing and dairy production.

Whereas, the companies say the government’s leather target would be impossible to meet unless the restrictions are reversed.

“There is a lot of panic in the industry after the latest order, which has come as the biggest blow,” Puran Dawar, chairman of Agra-based exporter Dawar Footwear Industries, said as hundreds of workers moulded shoes on the factory floor, referring to the ban on cattle traded for slaughter.

“There are grave concerns about the supply of leather, exports of shoes and overall employment,” he said.