A Mumbai bandh, called by the Shiv Sena, has been postponed after Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan set up a committee with a time-bound programme to address the issue of housing for mill workers.
The committee, comprising mill workers’ representatives, officials from government departments and Ministers, will decide on a fair price for flats within two months. It has been given three months to decide on how more land can be made available for housing.
The Chief Minister, who met representatives of mill workers here on Saturday, accepted some important and contentious demands, after which they advised the Opposition parties to shelve the August 1 bandh plan for the time being.
On Thursday, the Sena and other opposition parties took out a massive morcha to demand free housing for mill workers. The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and its leader Raj Thackeray took part in the morcha, but did not support the bandh call.
Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray told the media on Saturday that he had on Friday night spoken to the Chief Minister on the phone and suggested that he meet the nine representative organisations of mill workers to resolve the issue. Mr. Chavan, who on Friday said such an exercise would be possible only next week, immediately called a meeting on Saturday afternoon.
Datta Iswalkar of the Girni Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti said Mr. Chavan agreed to accept January 1, 1982 as the cut-off date for deciding the eligibility of workers for housing, and all those who were on the muster roll of the mills that day would get homes. Secondly, heirs or legal descendants of the workers would be entitled to houses. Mr. Chavan also felt that those living in Mumbai should be eligible for the housing scheme.
Most of the workers live in rented houses in the central part of the city. The workers’ heirs and the people who were left out of the earlier enumeration will now be given another chance to fill out applications.
Last year, about 1.10 lakh applications were received for houses and this number could go up to 1.50 lakh. Over 6,900 homes are ready for the workers but the supply is too short.
In response to questions, Mr. Thackeray said the Sena had not given up the demand for free housing. It would see how the committee dealt with the issue. If the government reneged on its demands, the agitation would be intensified. Hindu