In Agra, industrialists, workers and social activists jointly took to the streets on Wednesday evening, 19th September to protest against the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) proposal to close over 400 “polluting industries” in and around the Taj city, spreading over 10,400 sq.km. If implemented, it would render thousands of workers jobless.
The TTZ in its draft vision document has suggested closure of around 455 industries, categorized as “red and orange” in a bid to preserve the Taj. Industries, with pollution index score of 60 and above, are categorized as “red” and those, with a pollution index score of 41 to 59, are rated “orange”.
Hundreds of workers from the footwear industry joined the protest. Protesters carrying placards and posters marched through the city’s MG Road. Multiple organizations, representing tourism and travel trade hotels, medical facilities centers, real estate developers, and diesel engine manufacturers and engineering components manufacturers, organized the massive protest march from Soor Sadan to Shahid Smarak.
Rajiv Wasan, General Secretary Agra Footwear Manufacturers & Exporters Chamber (AFMEC) says, “Air pollution is the main contributor, affecting the color of the Taj, but the vision document, prepared by Delhi’s School of Planning and Architecture (SPA) at the behest of the UP government, has suggested the closure of industries on the basis of total pollution index score comprising water, air and hazardous waste.”
“Agra has suffered a lot in the past 25 years. The industrial development has come to a halt,” states leading shoe exporter Nazir Ahmed.
Addressing the big turnout at Shahid Smarak, speakers blamed the local politicians for not voicing the collective fear and concerns of those affected by the government orders. Meanwhile, the apex court is considering a proposal for declaring Agra a heritage city. The matter will be taken up on September 25, 2018.
Opinder Singh Chattwal, President Agra Shoe Manufacturing Association opines, “This is a matter of grave concern as livelihood of workers in multiple trades is at stake, if implemented it will render thousands of workers jobless in the footwear sector alone. Footwear being put in green category, footwear factories cannot expand, and no new factory would get permissions. Footwear is a non-polluting industry, and if there’s any concern about pollution then we request government officials to invite the industry for a discussion on how to address the concern. The industry will take necessary steps to stop pollution…. everything is possible.”
“Surely, the government, as well as the local residents, want Agra to be pollution free, but instead of proposing a draconian policy, the government should invite the industry stakeholders to discuss and provide alternate solutions to deal with it,” says Yogi Batra and Felix Van HeesbeenVan Hoorn of Trading-Senate overseas.
Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) – a 10,400 sq.km trapezium-shaped area covers the five districts of the Agra region. It comprises of over 40 protected monuments, including three World Heritage Sites — the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri. The authority was given the task to monitor the progress of the implementation of various schemes for protection of the Taj Mahal and programs for protection and improvement of the environment in the above area.
The draft, which is to be discussed with the special secretary, industries, on Monday, 24th September, 2018 has raised concerns of industrialists who feel that its implementation would adversely impact the future of lakhs of people in the city. Industry leaders addressing the protesters at the Shaheed Smarak claimed that thousands of people would lose their jobs with total disruption of economic activities in Agra if the restrictions were not lifted.
Organizations that joined the protest included Agra Footwear Manufacturers and Exporters Chamber, Laghu Udhyog Bharti, National Chamber of Industries and Commerce, UP Diesel Engine Manufacturing Association, Mathura, Firozabad Factories Association, Engineering Component Manufacturing Association, Factory Owners’ Association, Export Promotion Council Members, Computers Association of Agra, Tourists Welfare Chamber, Real Estate Developers Organization, Foundries Association, Agra Hotels and Restaurants Association and a dozen others.