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In the early 19th century, India used to export cotton to Britain, and then re-imported the textile it produced. At that time, Bombay was known to be the Manchester of the East. The Indian businessmen during this period saw a huge opportunity in this business and thus established the first Indian cotton mill, ‘The Bombay Spinning Mill’, in 1854. The growth of the business led to the expansion of this industry at such a fast pace that by end of 1870, 13 more mills in Bombay were set up. Bombay began being referred to as the “Village of Mills”. The industry reaped great economies by integrating processes such as weaving and spinning, and rose to become one of the world’s largest industries of the 19th century.
The worst to hit the mills was the famous textile strike in 1982 by the mill workers. Almost around 250,000 workers and more than 50 textile mills went on strike. After a long battle of struggle, the strike was called off with no concessions given to the workers. Because of the strike most of the industries moved away from Bombay and over 80 mills in central Bombay were closed. This resulted to the end of the textile industry in Bombay.
Soon after, a significant chunk of mill workers and their descendants left Mumbai. And among those who stayed back, most of them found themselves working in the unorganized sector or as contract workers. Today, after 30 years have gone by, they seem to have finally borne the brunt of the collateral damage arising from the changes in Mumbai’s economy.
Strolling through Lower Parel, one can see the developed Mumbai with high structures and extravagant shopping malls like the Phoenix and the Palladium. The same place had been the site of hard work and toil for innumerable working class people for over a century, a site of struggle which had a potential to over throw any established building. Today, it is the space for the rich.
It is interesting to see how these spaces have occupied the Mill buildings. There are no signs of its history, the people occupying the space have changed, the purpose behind these walls has changed. Wherein on the other side, the cracks on the walls still want to tell you a lot more about their history. at Mumbai, Maharashtra