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Bhiwandi looms on indefinite strike over power tariff hike

Torrent,which procures electricity from power grids at Taloja and Kalyan in Thane district,hiked power tariff by 50 per cent.

Written by SUKANYA SHANTHA | Bhiwandi |
November 16, 2013 3:30:06 am

Eight lakh powerlooms of Bhiwandi,that were working in full swing till 10 days back,have now gone silent. On November 6,the Bhiwandi Powerloom Sangharsh Samiti,an umbrella body of powerloom owners,went on an indefinite strike against the hike in power tariff by Torrent Power Limited,a franchise of Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd.

Torrent,which procures electricity from power grids at Taloja and Kalyan in Thane district,hiked power tariff by 50 per cent to Rs 4.80 per unit three months ago. “This is an unreasonable hike,” said Azim Ansari,a powerloom owner. Officials at Torrent Power say they are going according to the rates fixed by Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC).

Bhiwandi,second to Ichalkaraji in Kolhapur in textile production with annual turnover of Rs 350 crore,consumes 3,000 lakh units of power annually. It has been a blacklisted town in the MERC’s list for power theft. “A whopping 97 per cent of power was stolen by the powerloom owners here. It stopped after 2007,when Torrent came in,” said a MERC officer.

While the loom owners,some willingly and others forcibly,supported the strike,it is the 10 lakh daily wage workers who are suffering the consequences. For 35-year old Sriram Kumar,a powerloom worker here,a week-long strike means loss of Rs 2,500 (on an average a worker makes Rs 250-350 for a 12-hour shift). “I haven’t slept well since the mill owner informed me about the shut down. I have worked here for over a decade. This is the first time I witnessed a strike.” Back home in Ghorakpur,his family is clueless. “I am the only earning member and have to fend for seven others,” he added.

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“Do we have a choice (not to join the strike)?” asks Raj Kumar Bakshi,owner of Raj Textiles. Many others said their looms were forcibly shut by local political activists. Interestingly,all political parties stand united. “For which other issue will you see all the parties unite and appeal to the state government,” asks Rajesh Mhatre,a sitting Shiv Sena MLA from here.

“The government seems to be unwilling to address our concerns. We have decided to extend our strike by five days which will culminate into a massive ‘Morcha on Mantralaya’ on October 20,” Bhiwandi Powerloom Sangharsh Samiti president and Congress MP Suresh Tawre said.

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