Like the other days, the sun rises here on the bank of this buriganga. Sun rises here by nature, but lot of changes have been here.
Even some days before, hazaribagh tannery on buriganga would get lively by the foot step of the leather craftsmen. It would be seen a wonderful craftsmanship of a luxurious product from the raw skin wrapped in blood and flesh.
Since 1960, crossing a long uphills, this hazaribagh tannery Had become the pilgrimage of the leather industry. From right here, this sector has become the 2nd largest foreign currency earning source by exporting leather and leather goods to more than 53 countries.
But all at a sudden, this hazaribagh tenerry has been swallowed by the senility. This is the place which would be enchanted by thousands of workers everyday is now barren.
Now workers don’t wake up in this unhygienic and Groaning environment for the excitement of creating art. Like the ‘time, you old gypsy man’, time has gone from here forever.
But the decision to transfer tannery from hazaribagh was not sudden. Even it was not the result of some mere influences. To find a solution of some old problems just worked behind it. According to environmentalists green cross switzerland & blacksmith institute; hazaribagh is the fifth polluted place of the world.
For the wastage of tannery the heart of dhaka ‘buriganga’ was almost dead. And contaminated the environment of the locality. So, to protect the buriganga and local environment, and to ensure hygienic working environment for the workers, and to establish a developed and planned leather city project in 2003 at hemayetpur savar, the project of leather industry was started on 199 acres of land.
After crossing so many barriers through lots of hope and desire, in 2017 most of tanneries have been transferred to savar.
For this shifting to savar, it seemed that these right less and deprived workers have started dreaming again. A light of hope was peeping in their dream as they would get their job secured, fair wage, other amenities and earn long waited right.
But it’s been questioned now how much of the hope has been implemented. And it will be much clearer if we have a look at the present situation of savar leather industry.
Buriganga pollution is considered as one of the reasons for tannery transfers. Though buriganga is now protected from pollution, but due to the poisonous wastes of savars’ new tannery, dhaleshwari is gradually taking the form of buriganga. The surrounded environment is being polluting too. As a result, all regular activities like farming in the neighborhood is being disrupted.
Though the waste management was supposed to be according to the planning, but the scenario is just the opposite. Environmentalists say that due to the erosion of savar tannery, Dhaleshwari River will soon get worse than Buriganga.
One of the major reasons behind the transfer was to create a better and healthier work environment for tannery workers. But the current infrastructure doesn’t conclude as industrial and environment friendly.
The streets have become unusable with in just a few months. Roads get the form of ditch or drain by the effluent factory chemical and drainage. And due to trampling this chemical, workers are facing various physical complications like dermatitis. Even in the case of chemical reaction of CETP, workers are facing visionary problems and other health complications.
There is no significant difference of the internal environment from the external. It reminds again of the unhealthy working environment left behind of the hazaribagh tannery. Without any precautionary and due to processing the leather with bare hands and legs they are facing new blow before drying the old one.
Tannery transfer is just like another knock on the coffins of the workers’ long waited rights. Though the tannery was transferred from hazaribagh, construction of many factories have not been yet completed.
Most of the 150 tanneries could not start production yet. That’s why thousands of workers are passing their days wordless. Even their long-standing demand for ‘job security’ is still hanging in rope, most of the workers of savar tannery still live in hazaribagh or the surrounding areas, but from here, it is 20 to 22 kilometers to the new tannery in savar. As there is no arrangement for workers residence in savar tannery, the workers have to cross the distance by pushing traffic every day. And with this, they had to spend most of their salary for transportation and fooding. So, many skilled workers are losing interest in the job coming from far away. As a result, skilled workers’ crisis is eminent in tannery. Which is affecting the overall production of our leather and leather goods industry.
Though tannery was transferred to savar, the owners did not fulfill any of the contracts between them yet. Even as per agreement, their arrears were not been paid yet. Here workers have only the increment of living expense and insecurity of their life, but not a single coin of wage.
It was supposed to be a planned leather and leather goods industrial area in savar, but the reality is saying something different. As per promise, it was supposed to have the facility of housing, education, medical and safety for the workers, but it still remains unnoticed.
Time has changed the volume of the tannery, but the fate of the workers is still unchanged. Still there is only the life taking labor and forever labor exploitation. People crushed of low income are always deprived of basic amenities. Thought the people of this life taking profession have no positive change in life, but it has been a negative change in the exporting of leather and leather products.
According to the data, during the fiscal year 2017-2018, exports has been decreased by 0.02 percent in the first four months. If it continues, a fairly easy target of 5000 million us dollars in 2021 will be more difficult without being any surprise.
Everybody’s working for the development of this 2nd largest foreign currency earning leather and leather goods industry. Due to the lack of proper planning, transparency and accountability in implementation, success is somehow overrun.
Tannery sifting is not the only solution of the problem. As long as the core rights and fair life of these life consuming artisans will not be achieved, Until then, this powerful sector of the economy will not be able to walk its way upside down…