Housing for mill workers: a false promise?

Political parties can go to great lengths to preserve their vote banks, and in a city like Mumbai, where space is perennially at a premium, the promise of permanent accommodation can be a gamechanger.

At present, the city is witnessing intense politicking on the issue of providing free houses to mill workers. The mill workers, once again descended on the streets yesterday.

The mills, once considered as a backbone of Mumbai’s economy, formed a part of the city’s cultural fabric, mainly due to the massive workforce. Today, these workers — or rather their heirs — have been demanding free homes on the mill lands, as promised by politicians during elections. Houses are to be provided as compensation for giving up the mill lands for redevelopment.

From Shiv Sena to BJP to the ruling Congress and NCP, each faction has been supporting the cause of free houses for mill workers. But the real problem lies in the fact that not enough space is available for the construction of over 1.45 lakh homes.

The government is working overtime, looking for enough land to construct the homes, which are being demanded free of cost. This is justified, as mill owners have earned astronomical profits through redevelopment.

Despite, a number of meetings, CM Prithviraj Chavan has not been able to find an amicable solution, as the state cannot make the housing stock available free of cost. Though there was a lottery in which 6,925 mill worker families qualified for homes, the allotment is yet to take place due to various reasons.

If the deadlock prevails, the financial requirement for the project may go up astronomically, burdening the state kitty and leaving the hapless taxpayers gasping. 

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