The textile mills in the city, like Shakti Mills, were mainly manufacturing cotton, silk or woolen textiles. In a lot of cases, the land was on a lease (not ownership) basis.
It was difficult to sell the land as there were several restrictions on their sale, till 1991. The laws were further revised in 2001 following which several cotton mills were sold. In case of silk and woolen mills, the advent of new technology meant the mills were no longer profitable. While the land was still valuable, they couldn’t sell it as it didn’t belong to them. It led to a lot of them becoming derelict.
In 1991, The Development Control Regulations (DCR), 1991, allowed the sale of mill land provided that 1/3 of the land was handed over to the Municipal Corporation for open spaces, 1/3 for affordable housing to MHADA and 1/3 to be developed by millowners. In 2001 the DCR was amended and among other things it mentioned that vacant mill land should be turned into a public area.
Mills are big in area and they have a large footprint. The Shakti mills incident hints at the fact that security needs to be beefed up. The derelict mill should have been turned into an open space which would enable access for all. After all, in a city of 12 million, the city has just 1 square metre of open space per person. Also, what the owners need to look into is how there was no security and hence, people were allowed to enter the derelict mill.
-- As told to Soma Das