Bengaluru: The traditional dyeing industry in Bengaluru is on its last legs. Stringent pollution norms, rising prices, falling income, lack of modern technology, and low productivity have made the industry virtually unprofitable.
In Bengaluru, textile dyeing units are located in Vinayak Nagar in Shanti Nagar, Hongasandra, Tavarekere, and Mysuru Road. These units are more than 50 years old. And when they shut down, an era would come to a close.
Fifty-eight-year-old Narayana has been working in the dyeing industry since he was 18. But he knows that the good times are over. "My father, grandfather and grandmother were into this profession. Mine is third generation here. But I am making my children study as I do not want them to be in this profession. This might help us earn our daily bread but our future is not so secure," says Narayana.
There are more than 1000 units in the city and more than 5000 people earn their living from this profession. The dyeing units are operated out of small houses measuring 10 X 10 sqft.
Shanmugam, who has been in the business for more than 50 years, explains the process. "We get white saris from different shops in Chickpet. These saris come from Surat in Gujarat," says Shanmugham.
"After we get the saris from traders, we bring standard colours from Cubbonpet, Chickpet and mix it with hot water in a boiler. We keep pouring the water on the saris. After the saris are dyed, we dry and iron them and send them back to shops." Shanmugham says they need 70 to 80 kgs of wooden logs every day to heat the boilers where they mix colours. "For a week we need 3000 tonnes of wooden logs. We also have to pay labours for their job. At the end of month, owners of the dyeing units can earn up to Rs 15,000.
But ours is the last generation in this business. My children are studying B.Com and they would not like to work in dyeing units," says Shanmugham.
The dyeing veteran says that modern plants cost Rs25-lk to setup and they don't have that kind of money. Twenty-five-year-old Meenu Shukla came to the city from Uttar Pradesh after getting married. She has been dyeing sarees for the past five years while her husband works in a garage. But she too is saving for her children's future. "When I came to Bengaluru five years ago, I was looking for some decent job," she says.
"I came to this unit in Vinayak Nagar and learnt the method of dyeing saris. Now, I earn Rs 400 for one day. I am saving for my children's future, so my husband looks after the daily expenses."
As environmental issues take centre-stage in civic debates, pollution by the dyeing industry has added to the woes. Units let colour water directly into the drains angering local residents who claim of receiving coloured water in taps.
Recently, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board also inspected the units and directed them to install preliminary effluent treatment plant to tackle the problem of coloured water. According to the KSPCB, each unit produces around 400 litres of colour water every day and the water is let into the drains. But officials are still unsure as to how the coloured water got mixed with drinking water.
But owners in the dyeing industry are clear: they will rather shut down than install an effluent treatment plant. "It costs us a lot. It is better that we shut down our units. But if the government is ready to install plant to recycle the coloured water, then we can co-operate with them," says Jayraj.