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The Great Mumbai Textile Strike... 25 Years On

'God was on the management side'

January 18, 2007
Lakhs of families suffered as a consequence of the strike and Mumbai was never the same for us," says Salvi. "The workers lost and the managements won. Many workers committed suicide. Many went to their native places and never returned. Many children went hungry for days and God didn't do anything. God was on the management side that day and even today he is on their side."

The workers at China Mill accepted the management's terms and took voluntary retirement in 2001, 19 years after the strike began.

The mill was run by Standard Industries, part of the Mafatlal group before it wound up operations. It was reported that the Dosti group bought China Mill for Rs 53 crore (Rs 530 million).

The group plans to build five 20-storey residential towers and a shopping arcade on 500,000 square feet of land.

Mumbai's first textile mill, Bombay Spinning Mill, was set up in 1854 in response to the British demand for cotton textiles.

In those days, Britain imported cotton from the United States but when the civil War broke out in America, the supplies stopped. This resulted in a boom for the Indian textile industry.

Until 1980, Mumbai's textile mills employed 300,000 people. Today, about 25,000 people work in the mills, which have not been shut down.

The decline came because of stiff competition from other countries and because many mills refused to upgrade their technology.

The 18-month mill strike, one of the longest in India's labour history, was the death knell for the struggling industry. A majority of the mills shut down after the prolonged strike

Once called Manchester of the East for its textile industry, the face of Mumbai changed forever after the strike.

Image: Swank malls and highrises now dot the central Mumbai landscape

Also see: In the experience of blue-collared men, he remained the only trade union leader who put workers before politics

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