“80 % of industries cannot afford generator sets”

Leather industries in Ambur, Vaniyambadi and Pernambut have been grappling with continuous power outages for a long time now. While larger units have been pushed to opt for costlier power sources such as generators, several smaller units have been forced to suspend operations.

“Unscheduled power cuts have caused great inconvenience not only to the management and profitability but also workers of leather industries. We are facing a production loss of around 40 per cent due to power cuts, particularly in the last three to four weeks,” said M. Rafeeque Ahmed, Chairman of Council for Leather Exports.

There are some 400-odd leather industries, including tanneries and shoe factories, in Ambur, Vaniyambadi and Pernambut. Nearly 80 per cent of these industries are small-scale industries that cannot afford gen sets.

“Already, we are facing the European crisis. Our business is bad and the power cuts are only adding to our woes. When scheduled power cuts are being carried out properly in Chennai, why are townships being discriminated,” Mr. Ahmed wondered.

A. Kesavan, one of the directors of VANITEC, said industries were facing power cut for more than six hours a day. “Out of 110 tanneries under VANITEC, hardly 40 are running now and that too with generator sets. Leather processing is a continuous process and once it is loaded in the drum, it has to run continuously or else the acid will eat away the skin. Units which do not have generator sets are scared of loading the leather in the drum. We are finding it very difficult to run the industries,” he explained.

During a 12-hour period, power is supplied only for 5.5 hours, he said, adding, “Many of the units have literally stopped operations because they do not want to spoil the leather.” In simple words, it is a disaster for leather industries, noted Bachi, CEO of Bachi Shoes. “The cost of production has gone up and customers are not wiling to pay. We do not see anybody helping us,” he said. Forty-five per cent of India's total leather exports of four billion dollars is from areas in Tamil Nadu – Ambur, Chennai and Ranipet, he said.

“Due to the power crisis, the State is slowly losing business and other States are becoming competitive as they get power at lower rate. The effect of the power crisis has been massive on leather industries,” he added.

Industrialists suggest that the government could declare power holidays for the leather sector. “We understand the situation the State is undergoing. What is needed is regulation. We suggest that power holiday be declared for the industries,” Mr.Ahmed said.

Expressing a similar view, Mr. Kesavan said that instead of continuous power cuts per day, two days of holiday could be declared for leather industries. “In the remaining five days, they could provide eight hours of continuous power supply so that we could finish our work and give off to our labourers,” he suggested.