Mill workers will march against the NTC on March 1 st from Currey Road station bridge, west to Gold Mohur Mills, Dadasaheb Phalke Road Dadar East starting at 7.30 am

Mumbai’s mill lands scam

It was only in 1991 that the Government of Maharshtra (GoM) allowed sale and development of the 600 acres of mill lands in Central Mumbai, in the high-value island-city. This permission was to be given only for revival and modernization of mills, the assumption being that since mill land had been practically gifted away to mill owners in the last century to develop the textile industry, it should not be used for any other purpose. Further, the new Development Control Regulations (DCR), 1991 allowed sale of mill land on the basis that 1/3 of the land should be handed over to the Municipal Corporation for open space for the city, 1/3 for affordable housing to Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority, (MHADA), and 1/3 could be developed by the millowners. In exchange for the two thirds given up, the owners were guaranteed equal land as TDR (Transfer of Development Rights) outside the island city. So they did not lose any land. The mill workers, left without jobs or a future, pointed out that the modernization and revival schemes were fraudulent and the mill owners should not be allowed to profiteer on the real estate boom, without giving the city and the workers their due. Mumbai’s citizens, including noted architect Charles Correa made a plea to the government to plan the use the mill lands wisely, as it were the only open space left in the island city. In 2001 the DCR was again amended, ostensibly to grant mill workers rights to a share of the mill lands. The 2001 DCR gave protection (against eviction) to tenants of existing chawls on mill land, it set up a monitoring committee for payment of compensation to mill workers, it mandated that children of the workers should be given jobs in enterprises coming up on mill lands, and it also said that of the 1/3 of the land to be taken by MHADA for affordable housing, one half should be reserved for millworkers housing. All these concessions gave rise to a spurt of fraudulent ‘modernisation proposals’ and ‘revival schemes’, coming up before the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR) in Delhi, using various excuses to make a killing on the real estate market.

The most important victory for the mill workers in this phase was that their right over a part of the mill lands was recognized, and they were promised housing and alternate jobs, all of which was meant to save the area known as Girangaon, and therefore the identity, heritage and ethos of Mumbai. It was also an important gain in principle for the city. However the govt and the mill owners drastically cut down the size land that was due under the 1/3 formula by applying it only to ‘vacant land’ in the mill premises.

Govt- owned NTC’s role:

Until 1996 there were 54 textile mills in Mumbai: 51 composite mills and 3 spinning. Of these 25 were in the state sector, being nationalized mills, and the rest were in private hands. The National Textile Corporation (NTC) had been formed after the nationalization of mills by the Indira Gandhi govt, in 1974. The idea of nationalization was to protect jobs and save the industry from sickness. Now however, NTC is behaving in exactly the same way as the private owners, in lack of accountability, real estate profiteering and outright fraud. In fact the NTC did not even want to follow the DCR and give a part of the land to the city and for common purposes, even if they were being given equal land outside the island city in exchange.

All the NTC mills in India except in Tamilnadu were sick and registered with the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR). NTC declared in the BIFR that it was possible to revive the NTC mills all over the country with an aggressive modernization proposal, which they submitted such a proposal to the BIFR in 2002. The funds for this revival were to be raised mainly from the sale of mills in Mumbai. The NTC‘s revival plan envisages shutting down 77 of its total of 119 mills in India, and running 22. Out of the 22, 18 are supposed to be run under joint venture, as textile related activity with the private sector.

What is this NTC revival plan for Mumbai? 

15 of the mills NTC proposed to sell are in Mumbai, based on which, they are supposed to run another 10 of the Mumbai NTC mills. The current scenario is as follows:

– 7 mills are sold.

– 4 mills are shown as being operative ie Tata Mills (Parel), Poddar Mills (Lower Parel), India United Mill No 5 (Byculla), Digvijay Mills (Lalbag).

– 4 mills are supposedly running as ‘textile related’ Joint Ventures: ie Apollo Mills and Gold Mohur Mills with Pantaloon, India United Mills No 1 with Bhasker Industries, New City with Alok Group.

– 6 mills are still lying closed.

Are the NTC mills really running? 

The entire revival plan that NTC has presented before BIFR, based on which they are selling and developing mill lands as real estate in Mumbai, is fraudulent. The total number of workers in Tata Mills, Poddar Mills, India United Mill No 5, Digvijay Mills is just 2750. The only money that has been spent on modernization is Rs. 130 crores in Tata Mills. What happened to the rest?

Insofar as the so called joint ventures running ‘textile related industries’ are concerned:

– In Gold Mohur Mills, Dadar east, which has a total land area of 7.05 acres, one small shed is being used for storing cotton. The rest of the land has been lying fallow since 4 years.

– In Apollo Mills, Lower Parel, with 6.41 acres, and New City (6.7 acres), Byculla, about 50 sewing machines each are running.

– In India United Mills No 1 (19.45 acres) in Parel there are 100 sewing machines.

Clearly this is a sham and a scam!

If the proposal submitted was for not revival but closure or re-development, which is what it is in reality, these four mills would have had to give land to the city for open space and affordable housing under the DCR. They would have been asked what they are doing with the money. This is the reason are claiming that they are running the mills, as ‘textile –related’ activity.

The NTC through its sale of just 7 mills in Mumbai has amassed Rs. 3999 crores by their own admission. For the revival plan for ALL OF INDIA that they submitted to the BIFR, they need only Rs. 547 crores. They have made a staggering profit of Rs 3452 crores! What are they doing with this money?

Six NTC mills are lying closed, ie 66.87 acres, and is not sold yet. We must act before this asset too is lost to the city.

What the mill workers want:

The unique place occupied by mill workers in the history, identity and culture of Mumbai makes their demand for space to survive in the city a perfectly logical and justifiable one.

All the textile mill unions, supported by a large chunk of opposition political parties have come together on the initiative of Ms Jayshree Khadilkar, editor of Navakaal. They are fighting for their right to survive, their right to the city.

MHADA has built 5216 units for mill workers on the land of New Hind Mills in Mazgaon. The units are still to be allotted through lottery, as there is a dispute regarding the cost to be paid by workers, who cannot afford to pay what the government says it should pay- ie over 10 lakhs for each tenement. The number of mill workers who have applied for housing under the amended DCR, are over 100,000. To build tenements for all of them, MHADA needs 200 acres of land, which comes to a third of the total mill land in Mumbai, not counting the space taken up for former cotton godowns. Out of the total land belonging to the NTC mills in Mumbai ie around 266 acres, they have given just 6.07 acres for mill workers housing. An equal area has been given to the city, making a total of less than 13 acres. What is happening with the rest of the land? Does the city not have a right to know, and even decide on this question? Can the NTC, which is a public sector company amass unexpected and unaccounted profits? Why cannot they contribute more land to workers and the city?

NTC has agreed to handover India United Mills no 6 in Prabhadevi so that a memorial can be built to Dr. Babasaeb Ambedkar. This is a welcome step. Now, instead of demanding FSI in exchange which is what they are doing now, they must release more land to the space starved city.

Mill workers demand:

Mill workers will march against the NTC on March 1 st from Currey Road station bridge, west to Gold Mohur Mills, Dadasaeb Phalke Road Dadar East starting at 7.30 am on the following demand:

-NTC is not running the mills, and therefore the entire NTC land should be wholly used for the public benefit, for the people of Mumbai, and not for private gain.

-Land of the 6 unsold mills should be handed over to MHADA immediately for affordable housing and open space.

-NTC must immediately scrap the joint–venture textile related scheme with private sector in 4 mills and this land should be handed over to MHADA to build housing for mill workers.

The nine unions, while fighting for the rights of the textile mill workers, also call upon the citizens of Mumbai to wake up and join the fight to save scarce space in the city.


Maharshtra Girni Kamgar Union, Girni Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti, Rashtrya Mill Mazdoor Sangh, Sarva Shramik Sanghatana, Girni Kamgar Karmachari Nivara ani Kalyankari Sangh, Girni Kamgar Sena, Girni Kamgar Union, Girni Kamgar Sabha, ST & SC Mazdoor Union