Good news from Girangaon

There is finally good news from Girangaon – the village of mills, the city of gold- you name it. Around seven thousand retrenched mill workers received subsidized homes built by the government on lands that once held the textile mills of Mumbai in which they worked. The homes were allotted based on lucky draw- yes- in a game of fate. Well, fate still awaits the 95% of mill workers who seek justice even today.

Girangaon was the name commonly used to refer to the 600 acres area in central Mumbai, which had almost 130 textile mills- most of which were privately owned, and some owned by the state, i.e. the National Textile Corporation (NTC). The mills of Girangaon contributed significantly to the prosperity and growth of Mumbai during the later nineteenth century. It led to the transformation of Mumbai into a major industrial metropolis. The textile industry was offered government incentives in the form of long term leases, as mills stimulated the economic growth and employment.

Major sickness in the textile industry set in around the 1980s, mainly due to diversion of profits and lack of modernization. To oppose the layoffs that followed, many mill workers went on strike. Mumbai witnessed real estate boom around the same time. These lands, once leased to mill-owners at rates as low as 1 rupee per square-metre, were sold as prime real estate, and the industry was systematically shut down. The mill owners played in crores, while lakhs of mill workers lost their daily livelihood. Need not mention, this was accompanied by apathy of the central and state government towards the problem.

The strike collapsed, and the once called Manchester of the East- the city of Mumbai, and the lives of its people were changed forever. Today almost all the mills are closed. The rate for an apartment in Girangaon area is about Rs 50,000 per sq ft. Yet, the mill workers have continued their fight. It is interesting to ask oneself if they had any other choice.

What happened to these 3 lakh mill workers? Well, a few sought employments in other industries while many left the city. Some committed suicide, while others joined the local criminals and thugs and led to the rise of mafia in Mumbai. Some continued to live and fight for justice.

As strikes continued, during the nineties, the Government finally accepted the rights of the mill workers to the mill land. In 2001 the tenants of existing chawls on mill land were given protection. The government set up a monitoring committee for payment of compensation to mill workers and mandated that children of the workers should be given jobs in enterprises coming up on mill lands.

The Government also reserved one-third of Girangaon’s space for mill workers housing. Then came the bureaucrat Ramanand Tiwari (yes, of Adarsh scam fame) who claimed that the one third formula applies only to the open spaces of Girangaon. This left the workers with very little space. This decision was challenged, and later ridiculed in Indian courts. The mill owners, supported by the highest priced lawyers in the country, won in the Supreme Court in a tamasha that followed in 2006.

Well, these textile workers never made news, but never gave up either. While Mumbai went on to become the fashion capital, these deprived men and women continued their fight for years, for political reasons and otherwise. Thousands of people marched on streets. The government finally accepted the demand of houses for all the workers on the rolls before 1982, and set up a committee to identify more land for this purpose, not necessarily in former Girangaon. The price of the houses were set at Rs. 3333 per square ft, which was still high, yet low compared to the prevailing market price of about Rs. 35,000 per sq ft. Loans at low rates of interest were made available so that mill workers are able to buy.

Well, the land needed to accommodate these 1.5 lakh textile workers is vast. However, on 28th of June 2012, out of the space that was made available, about seven thousand of these mill workers received the basic amenity of housing, on the basis of lucky draw. The makers of the city of Mumbai, the textile workers, finally had a reason to smile.

Three decades have passed since the injustice began. Finally justice has come to less than 5% of the victims, and the whole Girangaon celebrated. Guess this is the spirit of the city, a reason that it still lives, it still fights.

Advertisements

7 responses to “Good news from Girangaon

  1. While housing is to be provided to all workers from the 58 erstwhile textile mills, the housing board has so far received its share of land for construction of mill workers’ housing from only 18 mills. As a result, merely 43,099 workers from these 18 mills will get to participate in the lottery process. “There was no alternative but to weed out those workers from the other 40 mills as of now. They will have to wait until MHADA gets possession of the remaining land,” said a senior MHADA official dealing with the lottery process, adding that no additional houses will be available for mill workers for at least another couple of years. The official added that since it is difficult to get land in Mumbai, one option is to construct houses for the workers in their own home towns in Maharashtra.

  2. Housing department is opposed to providing houses to mill workers at concessional rates. The houses for mill workers cost Rs 10.5 lakh. State got a subsidy of Rs 2 lakh per house from centre. Housing dept says MHADA must recover construction cost. and nt offer any subsidy Decision regarding distribution process to be taken soon.

  3. Mill workers’ organisations, however, said that the government is planning on pricing the 225-sq ft flats at Rs 10.50 lakh each. “It has been over ten years since most of the mill workers received about Rs 2 to Rs 5 lakh as part of their final settlement; they cannot afford to cough up such a big sum now. If MHADA can provide similar sized low cost houses for Rs 4 to 5 lakh at Pratiksha Nagar in Sion, why can’t homes for mill workers be given at the same prices?” said Pravin Ghag, secretary of Girni Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti.

  4. ), not including the workers’ housing. The mill workers lived in a community, and they fostered a unique culture which shaped Mumbai at the turn on the century. This textile industry flourished until the early 1980s, after which most of the mills were shut down, as the owners deemed them unprofitable and declared they were incapable of paying their workers’ wages.

  5. While housing is to be provided to all workers from the 58 erstwhile textile mills, the housing board has so far received its share of land for construction of mill workers’ housing from only 18 mills. As a result, merely 43,099 workers from these 18 mills will get to participate in the lottery process. “There was no alternative but to weed out those workers from the other 40 mills as of now. They will have to wait until MHADA gets possession of the remaining land,” said a senior MHADA official dealing with the lottery process, adding that no additional houses will be available for mill workers for at least another couple of years. The official added that since it is difficult to get land in Mumbai, one option is to construct houses for the workers in their own home towns in Maharashtra.

  6. On April 23 the Bombay textile workers responded to the call of the All-India Textile Workers’ Council for a general strike, and it rapidly spread throughout the textile centres in India. On May 1 7,000 textile workers in Delhi declared a sympathetic strike with the workers in Bombay; 156 of these were shot down in the streets of Delhi. Meetings have been prohibited, special emergency laws have been operated, 14 of the leaders have been arrested, and many people have been shot down. “The Government of Bombay reports that interest in the mills strike appears to be waning and that meetings are smaller. The exodus of mill workers from Bombay appears to be increasing, although leaders have advised the strikers not to go to their native places as the strike would thereby be weakened.” (Times, May 18, 1934.) So such things appear to be happening to the Government of Bombay.

  7. Pingback: News and not-news | Sourav Roy

Speak up!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s