Twenty-seven years after union leader Datta Samant launched the great mill strike demanding more wages and bonuses for mill workers, the Girni Kamgaar Sangharsh Samiti, an organisation that fights for mill workers’ rights, held a protest against the state government for ignoring the workers’ demands.
The protest was held on Monday at Azad Maidan and was attended by hundreds of mill workers and their families. The workers chose to protest on Monday because it was on this date, in 1982 that Samant launched the mill strike. On Tuesday, the government is inaugurating three textile mills that have been revived. Five others are likely to be reopened soon.
The workers were demanding homes on mill lands and employment for children of mill workers and outstanding dues, among other things. “We have 75,000 homes but we want 2.5 lakh houses,” said Datta Ishwalkar, leader of the Samiti. “We also want the lease of Bharatmata to be renewed.”
Ishwalkar met Chief Minister Ashok Chavan at the former’s residence, Varsha, on Monday evening. Protestors said Chavan has promised to meet secretaries of the departments concerned in 10 days and try to solve the issues.
After his meeting with Chavan, Ishwalkar told a television channel that Chavan asked him why the workers were protesting even though he had sincerely been thinking of solving their problems. “Why do we have to always use pressure tactics with the government,” asked Ishwalkar.
“We will take a morcha to Mantralaya if our demands are not met,” said Prakash Kadam, a mill worker and one of the 2.5 lakh members of the Samiti.
Ishwalkar said people from all over Maharashtra had come to support the protest. “We want to show that nearly 28 years after the mill strike of 1982, we are still fighting,” said Ishwalkar.