Can the running of 20 power looms manned by just 65-odd workers be considered the revival of a mill?
The National Textile Corporation revived three mills last month but for a couple of years some private mills have been using modernisation as a pretext to avoid giving land to mill workers.
Several private mills have installed three to 20 looms and hired some labour to make it look like they are under modernisation.
The law says mills under modernisation do not have to hand over one-third of their land to public authorities for housing mill workers.
Groups fighting for mill workers’ rights brought these lacunae to the government’s notice at a meeting chaired by Chief Minister Ashok Chavan on Tuesday.
The state government has now decided to amend Development Control Rule 58 that lays down rules for mill land development and usage to define ‘modernisation’ to avoid misuse.
The amendment is expected to be cleared in a month. “We will have to amend what is meant by modernisation. That means mills which hire at least 30 per cent of their work force, are productive and have at least 200 power looms and not five as seen in many mills,’’ said T. C. Benjamin, secretary, urban development.
“Mill owners use all possible loopholes in law to avoid parting with land,” said Datta Ishwalkar, president, Girni Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti (GKSS).
“Bombay Dyeing Mills has kept 20 looms in one shed in Worli and hired 65 workers out of 3,000 to use the modernisation clause for their benefit. The same is the case with Ruby Mills and several others. Hence this amendment is necessary.’’
Mill owners have to hand over with one third of the total open mill land to Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) for housing mill workers’ families.
There were 2.5 lakh mill workers on the rolls of various mills when they started closing. Mill workers unions have demanded that all workers get public housing.
Government officials have said 10,000 houses are ready and will be allotted by May. The state expects another five acre from NTC properties for public housing, but most of the private mills have not parted with this land.