While Agra is famous for its world heritage sites like Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri; the city's shoe industry is one of the largest leather clusters in the country. Even today, the unique shoes and other leather products from the city continue to allure both locals and tourists. However, according to small scale industrialists in the area, the leather and shoe manufacturing industries are facing grave threats post demonetisation and Goods and Services Tax (GST).
While emphasising that their dissatisfaction with the government will be reflected in the upcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh, Mashruf Qureshi, owner of a shoe factory, said that the state government is not paying any heed to their demands. "Since the Yogi government has come in Uttar Pradesh, the slaughtering of the animals were banned and the price for raw materials became exorbitant. The GST and demonetisation along with this initiative hit the local traders and manufacturers adversely," he said.
He further said that the Bhartiya Janata Party has fielded Ram Katheria from another place. He was in power for over 10 years in the city. "The voters are unhappy with the current government. The grand alliance will be benefitted from this, as all we want is change," he added. Emphasising that the condition of the industry must change for the better, he said, "We don't have any federation that will look into our issues and resolve and the industry is in jeopardy. There is no help from the government. The government should pay attention to the shoe industry."
He said, "We are into leather business since my father's time. After demonetisation that was followed by GST, it became difficult for us to pay our labours. Due to this, many workers started finding other jobs. A large number of Dalits and Muslim workers who were associated with the leather industry had to leave their jobs." "The government did not pay attention to the leather industry. With the falling in the number of workers in every shoe factory, the production is affected badly and finding labour has become a great challenge," he added.
Earlier, Agra was the hub of manufacturing and exporting of shoes and other leather products. Even the products were exported to Russia and other foreign countries, he said. Voting in Uttar Pradesh is taking place in seven phases from April 11 to May 19. Counting of votes will be held on May 23.