Shut out of Mumbai’s mills years ago, ten families set to move into their own homes

FP

Mahipat Subbarao Ghorpade, 51, who worked in the folding department at Elphinstone Mills until 1990, does not know how it is to live in a flat. After having always lived in chawls, he and his family will be handed over the key to a new 225 sq ft apartment in a multi-storied building in Lower Parel by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.

Ghorpade is in the first batch of 10 mill workers who will get flats built by the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada). They are among the 6,925 mill workers picked in a lottery that Mhada organised last year. As many as 1.5 lakh mill workers have been struggling for decades to get a home in Mumbai at rates subsidised by the state.

"Me, my family, all are very happy. We have never known what it feels like to live in a building with a flat of our own. We are very excited to move in," said Ghorpade, who now works as a milkman after a mass exodus from his mill over 20 years ago. He lives in a small room in a chawl at Vile Parle with his wife and 15-year-old son.

The Mhada official in charge of the post-lottery process said the new flats are located on mill lands across the city. "These are the mill workers who have been declared eligible and have made the payment for their homes," he said.

Ghorpade, who hails from a village in Kolhapur district, said arranging money to buy the flat costing Rs 7.5 lakh had been difficult as no bank was willing to give him a loan.

Only 43,099 workers from 19 shut down mills whose owners had surrendered Mhada's share of land — a fraction of the total 1.5 million from 58 mills — participated in last year's lottery. The mill plots were leased out over a 100 years ago for a paltry sum. As the mills were declared sick following the textile workers strike, the government sold the land to make way for luxury apartments, commercial complexes and malls.

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