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Press Release: March 06, 2006

Mill workers and mill area residents shocked by Supreme Court judgment!

Mill workers, tenants, and residents of the city will march to the Mantralay on March 14 th at 3 pm from Azad Maidan under the banner of the Mumbai Peoples Action Committee, to demand that the Maharashtra govt. immediately legislate to protect the city!

The people of Mumbai, mill workers, mill area residents are shocked by Supreme Court judgment on mill lands. The implications of the judgment are far reaching. It means simply that the city of Mumbai , which is imploding without space to breathe, without low cost housing that can rehabilitate those who have no option but to live in slums and dilapidated buildings, without open spaces, without civic amenities, parking space, infrastructure, public transport will be faced with even more over crowding and total collapse. Two and a half lakh mill workers who were thrown out because of mill closures, who were promised land rights and housing in exchange, are now cheated of their rights.

The 600 acres of mill lands in the centre of Mumbai which was given to mill owners, mostly on lease, a century ago, will be left to the tender mercies of the people who are responsible for the lack of planning and the collapse of Mumbai city- the powerful builder lobby including the mill owners who have also turned builders.

The Maharashtra Government which issued a circular to reinterpret the 2001 amendment to the Development Control Regulations 1991 is the agency which is mainly responsible for this act of violence against Mumbai and the mill area.


In 1991, the Maharashtra govt. amended the DCR, and allowed sale and development of mill lands under certain conditions: Lands were to be shared in more or less equal thirds between the Municipal Corporation (MCGM) for civic amenities; Maharashtra Housing Area Development Authority (MHADA), for public housing; and mill owners for modernisation and development of the mills. In exchange for the two thirds that was being given up by mill owners, Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) was granted to them on the two thirds they were giving up, but they could use it outside city limits, in the suburbs. The DCR balanced the need for commercial development with need for open space and low/mid-income housing. The mill owners got permissible Floor Space Index (FSI) of 1.33 on their own one third, and on the rest of the land they could use the FSI elsewhere in the city. Despite these gains, the mill owners continued to look for loopholes to give nothing and gain more, selling and developing land where leases had already expired.

In 2001 the Maharashtra Govt. amended the DCR again. They stated that this was in order to plug loopholes, to grant protection to workers and poor tenants living in the mill tenements. Mills would not be given permissions until they had deposited workers dues. Tenants living in the mill chawls could not be evicted. Provision was introduced that within the land provided for public housing (to MHADA), 50% would be set aside for housing textile workers. In case of development of land, and creation of jobs, priority should be given to family members of the textile workers who had lost their jobs. The division of the land stayed as it was: 1/3 each for mill owners, for MHADA (low cost and workers housing), and for MCGM (to create open spaces). The TDR provision was changed in order to give more to mill owners as well. They now had an FSI on their own one third (the permissible 1.33) plus that on the one third which was being given to BMC, a total of 2.66 FSI in situ. Besides this they can use the FSI on the remaining one third also, as TDR in the suburbs.

But the builders and developers of Mumbai were not satisfied. They put tremendous pressure on the Maharashtra Govt to give them rights to develop the entire land, without giving anything to the city and the mill workers.

Accordingly, in 2003 the Urban Development Ministry issued a ‘clarification’ reinterpreting the 2001 amendment in favour of the builder-mill lobby. They said that the division of the land was applicable only to ‘open space’ in the mills, which again was interpreted to mean land on which there were no structures. Therefore the one third each for MHADA and MCGM (and therefore for low cost housing and open spaces) had to be calculated on that mill land on which there were no structures, even if the structures were demolished. Which meant that the share of the city for open space and low cost housing, the 2/3, came to nothing .

That is when the citizens of the city protested. The BEAG approached the court, supported by a host of city based organisations and individuals. The Mumbai High Court in its order upheld the original 2001 amendment – that the three ‘thirds’ would have to calculated on the entire land of the mill when it is closed; that the structures if demolished, turn into open space. In short, the High Court judgement held that a government circular cannot overwrite the law.

And now unfortunately the Supreme Court has upheld the Urban Minister’s “interpretation’ which gifts away valuable land over which the city has rights, to the powerful builder lobby. Ironically, two years ago, in the case of Mukesh Mills and other mill chawls, the Supreme Court refused the clarification of the Maharshtra Govt said that tenants should be protected. The Supreme Court judgement on the issue of mill lands, not only makes personal profiteering more important than the collective needs of a dying city, it actually supports the blatantly illegitimate demands of the builders, which the administration, and the law in Mumbai have always done.

We hold the Maharashtra govt., as representatives of the people, responsible for this crime against people of Girangaon and the people of the city. We demand that they immediately uphold the 2001 amendment as interpreted by the Mumbai High Court, and take back the government circular with its ‘interpretation’. In the case of Ulhasnagar , the Maharashtra govt. legislated to protect what were clearly illegal buildings despite a High Court order saying they should be demolished. We ask the Maharashtra govt to legislate immediately to protect the mill workers and the people of the city.

Mumbai city need radical measures to become liveable. The disasters caused by the unlimited greed of the builder lobby was more than apparent during the flood. Where the planning standards for open spaces is 16 sq. m. per person, Mumbai island city has an abysmal 1 sq. m per person. The right to clean and wholesome environment is inherent in the right to life and personal liberty under article 21 of the Indian constitution.

The time for Mumbaikars to stand up and be counted is here. A united stand across political and class lines is the need of the hour.

Datta Iswalkar, Neera Adarkar, Meena Menon, Pravin Ghag, Rajan Dalvi

Girni Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti

Afsar H. Jafri
Research Associate
Focus on the Global South – India Programme
A – 201, Kailash Apartments
Juhu Church Road, Juhu
Mumbai – 400 049
Tel: 0091-22-5582 1141, 5582 1151
Fax: 0091-22-2625 4347
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