mill workers demand housing ‘no more scams’

MUMBAI: “This march is the result of 30 years of pent up anger and wait for affordable homes for families of Mumbai’s former mill workers,” Jayshree Khadilkar, editor of Navakaal said on Thursday as over 500 workers of 9 unions held a protest march against the state government and National Textile Corporation (NTC) demanding free housing.

“My father worked in a textile Mill his entire life and one day they decide to close and there is no benefit to anyone except the rich owner, what sort of justice is that?” questioned Suwarng Ghadi, who works as a house maid earning Rs 4,000 to help her family pay Rs 5,000 as house rent in Kandiville. Another member of the Girni Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti said that the workers had lost trust in the government, “We have been cheated many times. They meet few leaders, make few promises and we are left minus a home. Many mill workers have died waiting for the state government to keep its promise of finding adequate land to build houses for workers refusing to use the mill land that is lying empty is useless.”

Ms Jayshree said that while over 16,000 homes have been built and ready to be allotted to the mill workers however over one lakh applications were received when the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) began to prepare for a draw of lots. Also lack of any eligibility criteria and pricing of the flats (over Rs 10 lakh) has agitated the workers.

“National Textile Corporation (NTC) had been formed to protect jobs and save the industry from sickness, it is not running the mills, so the land should be used for public benefit not for private gain,” Ramesh Nandkishor of Mukesh mill, Colaba said. He added at present four mills, Apollo Mills and Gold Mohur Mills, Indian United mills no 1 and New City mill are shown to be operative as ‘textile related’ however they are used for storing few sewing machines and in one case storing cotton in a shed. “The NTC through its sale of just 7 mills in Mumbai has amassed Rs. 3999 crores by their own admission. For the revival plan for the entire country that they submitted to the BIFR, they need only Rs. 547 crores.  They have made a staggering profit of Rs 3452 crores, this is a scam,” he added.

Within half an hour of the rally, Police had to take the protesting crowd to the Boiwada police station after they raised slogans and stopped the road traffic by squatting and lying down on the road. “They have the right to march peacefully, but you can not stop the traffic and create nuisance for the public,” a police officer on the spot said. “Six NTC mills, of close to 70 acres area, are lying closed and unsold. We must act before the government cheats us again,” Dattu Iswalkar shouted as police constables pushed the 70 year old in a van.

 Mumbai Police spokesperson Nisar Tamboli said that, “Preventive detention of 68 women and 230 men was done for blocking the highway and 14 people were arrested and later let go on bail.” Jayshree Khadilkar after being released by the police it the evening said that the police has assured the workers that they will fix a meeting with the Chief Minister so that our demands can be heard, we will continue our agitation if this promise is not met.(Eom)

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