Omkar Mahadik (21), a resident of Khatau Mill Colony, Byculla, is exhausted looking for a job. Having studied up to Class 12, he has been on the hunt for three months, ever since his contract with the loan department of a private bank ended.
“My father lost his job in the Khatau Mill lockout and since then our life has been hell,” said Omkar, whose older brother now supports the six-member family on a mere Rs 7,000 a month. “We are surviving due to the benevolence of our relatives,” Omkar said.
He is not alone in his dilemma. Unemployment is rampant in the Byculla and Sewri constituencies ever since the textile mills — Khatau, Simplex, Modern, Islam, Sitaram, Morarjee, Finlay and Hindustan Mills, to name a few — downed their shutters in the 1990s after a crippling strike in 1982 that destroyed Girangaon (as these mill areas were collectively known).
Earlier, the children of mill hands would inherit their jobs, but those jobs have now vanished. Byculla legislator Arun Gawli (47), a don-turned-politician who is currently behind bars, was a mill worker himself. Many of his gang members are the children of mill hands.
No wonder then that jobs are being promised by every politician worth his salt.
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) candidate Sanjay Naik (47) and the Shiv Sena’s Yeshwant Jadhav (46) claim they have provided jobs to many and would continue to do so after getting elected. The Congress’ Madhu Chavan (58) talks of spreading awareness about job opportunities.
In the case of Sewri constituency — 80 per cent of the population comprises Maharashtrians — it’s a face-off between the MNS and the Sena.
Chawls are being replaced by skyscrapers and property prices are soaring. Many Maharashtrians are selling their properties and moving to the distant suburbs, changing the area’s demographics.
“I am going to encourage self-development and stop people from migrating, unlike the Sena which has become a party of builders,” said MNS candidate Bala Nandgaonkar (41).
The Sena’s Dagdu Sakpal (59) says the MNS propaganda is misleading.
“I have always cared that people get decent accommodation and are not deprived of their rights,” said Sakpal. “How can anyone stop people from selling their property?”
The other problems are irregular water supply, shortage of open spaces and lack of basic amenities in slums.