There’s an unprecedented pessimism about the Lok Sabha election on April 29 among most of the 40,000 tannery workers in and around Kanpur.The issue is neither harsh working conditions nor low wages, but a total loss of jobs after 243 tanneries operating in Kanpur were closed down before the start of the Kumbh Mela at Prayagraj in January this year. The State government had ordered three-month closure of the tanneries to provide cleaner water to the pilgrims participating in the Maha Kumbh. A month has passed since the congregation got over but little has been done to restore their jobs.Asked about the extended shutdown orders, the district administration says the sewage treatment plant that treats the effluents coming out of the tanneries is overflowing. ‘Overflowing STP’The tannery owners, however, question how the STP is overflowing when their units have not been operating for the last four months. The tannery workers say they have no hope of any relief as a majority of them belong to poor Muslim families “which are low on the BJP’s priority list, and even the other parties are indifferent”. “U.P. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath launched a scheme, ‘One District, One Product’, to promote traditional industries in the State, but he has hardly done anything to promote the leather industry of Kanpur. An established industry has been completely ruined because the people in power see it with communal lens. They think it is owned only by Muslims but forget that directly or indirectly people of all religions are part of the industry,” said Mohammad Arshi, vice-president, Leather Industries Welfare Association.‘Monitored by depts.’ LIWA claimed that the tanneries in the city are monitored by more than a dozen of central and State departments to check pollution and the tannery owners follow all rules and regulations. “Instead of protecting the industry, the government has showed them in bad light for polluting the Ganga,” said Mr. Arshi. “Our exports are at an all-time low and we are importing leather from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand and other countries to meet the demand. The government has failed to see that the industry is the second biggest forex gainer in the country,” said Abbas Naqvi, a member of LIWA.“The government has failed to keep its promise on cleaning the Ganga and to show their concern, it has ordered the shutdown of tanneries,” he added.The tannery owners said they had already been severely hit by demonetisation and GST and this extended closure is killing them more. “If they (government) are so much concerned about cleaning the Ganga, why are they targeting only tanneries and no other industries like dye, textile, paper and paint. Just because they don’t consider us their vote bank, they are ignoring us,” said Mohammad Jameel, a tannery owner. A group of tannery owners on Monday met the District Magistrate of Kanpur who assured them of getting back on their grievances by May 2. The tannery owners, however, feel that things will change only after May 23, when the election results would be announced.