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The Great Mumbai Textile Strike... 25 Years On

'Except for despair, we achieved nothing'

January 18, 2007
So why didn't the workers protest?

He smiles and goes back time to January 18, 1982. The day The Great Mumbai Textile Strike was called.

That day trade union leader Dr Datta Samant told mill workers to keep away from work till they got a bonus and wage hikes.

Nearly 250,000 workers at more than 50 textile mills went on strike in Mumbai, hoping for a better future. Thousands courted arrest. A few months later, in August 1982, the city police briefly struck work, apparently in sympathy with the workers, and the army and Border Security Force had to be called in to control the unrest.

It was a watershed moment for Mumbai, then called Bombay, and the nation.

"We all protested in 1982," says Salvi, "but except for despair we didn't achieve anything."

As we speak, trucks and tempos piled with construction material move in and out of the China Mill compound.

Real estate experts estimate that textile mill land in central Mumbai is worth an estimated Rs 10,000 crores (Rs 100 billion) at today's prices.

In June 2005, the National Textile Corporation's Mumbai Textile Mill was sold for a staggering Rs 702 crore (Rs 7.2 billion) to the Delhi-based DLF Group in one of the most expensive real estate deals in the country. Apollo Mills was sold for Rs 180 crore (Rs 1.8 billion) and Jupiter Mills was sold for Rs 276 crore (Rs 2.76 billion). Kohinoor Mill was sold for Rs 421 crore (Rs 4.21 billion) to Kohinoor Projects, a company owned by Shiv Sena MP Manohar Joshi's son Unmesh, and Matoshree Realtors, on whose board Raj Thackeray used to be a director.

Image: Construction activity at Elphinstone Mill

Also see: What Datta Samant told in an interview shortly before he died

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