Workers are happy to see a hope of light and are supporting the MHADA (Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority) proposal which is planning to purchase the land and develop it into the biggest affordable housing project in Maharashtra.
If all goes well following the court order, around 3,100 workers from the closed Mafatlal company in Kalwa will get their dues after three decades.
The Mafatlal company in Kalwa had 3,100 employees when it was shut. On May 27, 1989, the company was closed due to some problems. The workers were not paid any compensation or due that time and the workers moved to the court to fight for their rights and due.
The fight for the workers started under the leadership of Manohar Kotwal, leader of Bombay Mazdoor Union. After Kotwal's death, Union general secretary Sanjay Vadhavkar further took up the fight in 2005 saying, "Kotwal, who was getting older, handed it over to me. We started the fight in court and other levels to pay up the due of the employees. The company went on liquidation on September 30, 1999. Therefore, it was the company's responsibility to pay the dues of 10 years to the employees. But the company claims to be bankrupt and raises their hands from paying off," he added.
Vadhavkar added, "It was a long struggle and because of the existing law, the workers will be helped to get their dues. We hope and support as 60 % of the employees are dead. But we will see that their family gets the dues," he added.
The Mafatlal company is spread across 123 acres and around 61 acres of land is in the government undertaking.
Mr Kulkarni (78), who was a senior marketing manager at Mafatlal company said, "It's almost 32-year of waiting. We are to be paid for the period of ten years from being shut to liquidation. If the company is closed, and nothing remains, the law says we can ask them to sell the property to pay our dues. A few years ago, a valuation of land was carried out and notice for sale was put up in the newspaper three times. But there was no response," added Kulkarni.
As there was no progress in the past few years and no hearing in the court for two years over the pandemic, the workers then approached Housing Minister Jitendra Awhad requesting him to go for an affordable housing development, which will be much closer to the railway station.
The company has three parties to pay. First the workers, second the bank creditors, and third is government. "We supported the Awhad proposal and decided to file an affidavit with our say over the deal in the coming days. Out of the 3,100 employees, around 2,000 have died. We are here for a few days and likely to see some progress to get our due," he added.
Housing Minister Jitendra Awhad recently announced the interest of MHADA towards the land saying, "In the last 32 years, the workers have not received a single rupee. Also, the court issued notice three times to sell the land. But no builder or developer is ready to purchase as he sees fewer benefits in it," he added.
"Mhada is ready to purchase the land and go for affordable housing for the poor and underprivileged. If the court approves, the MHADA's proposal around 29,000 affordable houses for the poor and underprivileged will be built at the place," he said.
"We believe the court order and are ready to pay the workers the compensation or due the court says that to one time in the cheque. We will also settle the creditors in a one-time settlement as per the court's order. The government too will be paid. As MHADA being a government body, the government will mostly be interested," added Awhad saying if everything goes well, it will be the biggest housing project in Maharashtra. I am fighting because the land is in my constituency," he added.
Earlier, Sanjay Kelkar, Bharatiya Janata Party Member and MLA had also taken up the issue with former revenue minister Chandrakant Patil. However, the fight of the workers and the support from the local representative is showing a victory for the government is now ready to sell the land.
Vinayak Jaipal (64), who worked as an electrician in the company for almost 15 years says, "The hopes are rising now. We also believe that even if the company doesn't pay us, they should make deals for a flat in return. The development of affordable housing which is planned at the company place," he added.