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Mumbai’s textile looms whirr again

Nearly three decades after a year-long textile mill strike that crippled Mumbai’s once-booming industry, state-owned National Textile Corporation opened three revived mills with high-automation machines. Naresh Kamath reports.

business Updated: Jan 19, 2010 21:54 IST
Naresh Kamath

Nearly three decades after a year-long textile mill strike that crippled Mumbai’s once-booming industry, state-owned National Textile Corporation (NTC) on Tuesday opened three revived mills with high-automation machines, marking a turnaround milestone in a saga that began in 1854.

The modernisation of the three mills — Tata (Hindmata), New United Mills number 5 (Kalachowkie) and Podar (Lower Parel) cost an estimated Rs 148.67 crore. They will now employ 2,500 old and new recruits. Sale of surplus land by NTC helped fund the revival.

Chief Minister Ashok Chavan inaugurated the mills at a function presided over by Union textile minister Dayanidhi Maran.

“Till date the NTC has garnered Rs 4,034 crore through the sale of assets which include land of its closed mills, which we have utilized to modernise our mills and pay of the dues of the workers,” said Maran.

NTC has also planned an investment of Rs 600 crore and is setting up mills in places such as Achalpur (Maharashtra), Hassan (Karnataka) and Rajnagar (Gujarat).

Chavan said the revival signalled that the mills were just not for real estate business. “It also displayed that we are still serious of protecting the rights of the working class,” he said.

“The new machines will increase productivity as well as well produce the best quality of fabric,” said Ramchandra Pillai, chairman, NTC.

The 1982 mill strike played a devastating blow to the mill business which was a key lifeline for the city. The Lalbaug-Parel-Dadar stretch, once home to lakhs of mill workers, saw a decline in its social fabric. Some 250,000 workers lost their jobs.

After land sales, defunct mills were turned into malls, and south-central Mumbai was transformed into an upscale business district.