Following the announcement that only 16,000 more homes can be constructed in the city for mill workers yesterday, nine unions of the retrenched mill workers now want to be provided with accommodation in the MMRDA rental housing scheme.
They are demanding that the mill workers be given a home in the rental houses that are being constructed by MMRDA in Virar, Thane, Badlapur, and other places. These houses have been constructed by MMRDA to accommodate the urban poor who cannot afford costly houses.
There are nearly 1.5 lakh mill workers and they have been demanding that every worker be provided with a home. However, yesterday at MHADA’s lottery for 6,948 affordable homes for mill workers, they have decided to look for alternatives and rental housing is one such avenue.
Pravin Ghag, joint secretary of the Girni Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti, a mill mazdoor union, claims that the CM has already assured them that he will accommodate the workers in the rental housing scheme. “This is the CM who keeps his word and hence, when he has assured us, we will surely get our houses. He had told us that we would be provided one lakh rental houses being constructed by MMRDA,” he said.
Rahul Asthana, MMRDA commissioner, was non-committal and hence said, “Whatever the government decides we will adhere to.” But, a senior MMRDA officer said, “If MMRDA’s rental houses are given away to mill workers then what’s the use of the project. It was meant to reduce the burden on the city by accommodating the urban poor and hence reduce surging slums. However, if the homes are given away to mill workers the problem won’t be solved.”
Meanwhile, at the start of the lottery at Bandra’s Rangsharda auditorium, there was a protest by a section of mill workers. Nearly six mill unions who have been demanding free homes protested outside the venue, creating traffic problems. “We have served the city for so long, and why should we be paying for the homes? Also, we boycott this lottery as it’s only for a few workers. A large number of workers are being ignored,” said a protestor.
However, a mill worker, Sai Nikam, who won a house in the lottery and belongs to the union that has been supporting MHADA’s insistence of charging construction costs, said, “We should pay MHADA at least the construction cost that they have paid for making the houses. They have already come down to nearly Rs 7 lakh from Rs 12.5 lakh. People should pay for houses to understand the importance of the house.”