Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, on Saturday, managed to buy time to find a solution to the millworkers’ problems. The Shiv Sena-led Opposition showed faith in the government and decided to postpone its proposed Mumbai bandh on Monday.
In a meeting with millworkers’ representatives, Chavan assured that the state government would work out a solution on the mill workers’ housing issue within three months.
Calling off its bandh, the Shiv Sena said Chavan had taken a good decision, adding that it would renew the agitation if the state failed to deliver its promise within the stipulated time frame.
However, Chavan has offered nothing concrete for mill workers so far.
“Better sense prevailed, but this was a face-saving measure. The fact is that successive governments, including the saffron combine, did nothing for mill workers. And, given today’s reality, it is difficult to provide houses for all mill workers,” said a state minister, on condition of anonymity.
The state government plans to call a meeting of all political parties on Tuesday to discuss suggestions to increase housing stock for mill workers.
In a meeting held on Saturday with mill workers unions, Chavan presented the facts before the workers’ groups.
He said the government could create only 16,000-odd houses. He said it was impossible to provide homes for over one lakh mill workers because that would require 150 hectares of land. He also ruled out offering free houses saying it was not viable.
Instead, he offered the government’s willingness to listen to constructive suggestions from political parties and unions on how to increase the housing stock and reduce the prices.
At Saturday’s meeting, however, Chavan conceded to the mill workers’ demand to set up a committee to work out a reduced price for their houses. He also conceded to taking the cut-off date of 1981-82 and not 2000 as suggested by the state officials. The government has also agreed to include mill workers’ families and those who already own a house in Mumbai as eligible candidates. This will again increase the number of eligible families significantly.
“We had never asked for free homes. Our demand was that the houses be given to us at nominal rates. Chavan has conceded to a majority of our demands,” said Datta Iswalkar of the Girni Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti, who was present at the meeting.
It has now been decided that the allotment of 6,948 houses already created for mill workers will be disbursed through a lottery system. Only workers from the mills that have handed over their land can participate in the lottery.