Until a decade ago, Kim Li Loi, Canton and Hot Wok, restaurants in the Chinatown locality of eastern Kolkata’s Tangra district, collectively served as a tannery among scores of others run by Chinese immigrants. But a December 19, 1996, Supreme Court order directed these and other inner city tanners from Tiljala, Topsia and Pagla Danga districts to shut shop and relocate to the Bantala Leather Complex, 15 km away from Kolkata.
Recently on 30 July 2005, the said complex has been formally inaugurated and 34 units have been shifted to this new venue. The area in question involves about 100 bighas of land within a short distance of the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass. Some of these old tanneries owned by Chinese families are being transformed into Chinese Restaurants while residential blocks are replacing some tanneries owned by Muslim owners. The much-hyped plans regarding setting up of eco-friendly projects in this area remains mere good empty words till date.
There are disagreements galore over land and financial issues governing the complex. Tanners who haven’t relocated say infrastructure is inadequate and fragmentary, compared to the original agreement.
Upward of 20,000 skilled workers have been rendered jobless. They should be viewed as the ‘victims of pollution-free development’.