News headlines

The Indian Express

Mumbai, Dec 13: The 109-year-old textile mill at Worli here shut down at midnight, Monday December 11. Workers were given 50 days wage as VRS.

For the 7,000 workers of Century Textiles and Industries Ltd at Worli, the reverberating gong of the midnight bell on Monday meant much more than the end of their shift. The bell sounded the closure of the 109-year-old mill, which is shifting its industry to Gujarat.

"In my 15 years of service, I made some good friends here. Ringing this bell, which brings to an end the last ever night shift of the mill, is an emotional moment for me," said Dashrath Singh, one of the security guards.

Fifty-year-old Ram Singh Yadav, another worker at the mill, is worried about his future. "I have been working in this mill for the last 30 years. Mismanagement by the owners shut down the company. I no longer have a job. Who will give me a job at this age?" asked a tearful Yadav, as he walked out of the mill premises for the last time.

The workers were asked to take the Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) and bid adieu to the company. Under the scheme, all the employees were given 50 day's wage.

"The mill's closure not just takes away the livelihoods of 7,000 persons, but also affects 7,000 families. Often, the mill workers are the only earning members of their families and they have many social responsibilities to fulfill," said Ajay Singh (30), who has been working at the mill for the last 10 years.

Emotions ran high on Tuesday afternoon, when the workers congregated outside the mill compound to collect their VRS cheques. Anger against the management was the most overriding feeling, with the workers shouting anti-management slogans.

"This mismanagement on the part of the higher-ups will create several problems, not only in the lives of the workers but even in the common man's life. Now, many of these jobless workers may resort to committing petty offences, just to meet their basic requirements," said Manohar Bunaiya (45), a worker who had come to collect his cheque.

The police were present at the spot to avoid any kind of trouble. But their apprehensions seemed unfounded, as the 3000-odd workers remained peaceful. They had only one thing on their minds-the bleak future facing them at the moment.

While some said that the mill was being taken over by another company and that is why it had to be closed down, others claimed that the mill was not a loss-making venture at all and the closure was just a ploy by the management to corner huge chunk of profits.

Company Secretary of Century Mill D K Agrawal was unavailable for comment.

Century Mill had hit headlines in May this year, after B K Birla, chairman of the Birla group and owner of the mill, confirmed in a media interview that the company was shifting its industry to Gujarat. When queried about the fate of the thirty-acre mill land, he replied: "Either we will sell it off or we will construct our own buildings."


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