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Ten-day shutdown against electricity tariff begins, Bhiwandi comes to a standstill
Wednesday November 6, 2013 6:34 PM, Staff Reporter

All shutters are downed, streets bore a deserted look and life for thousands of labourers are threatened to a sever blow as local weavers owning over eight lakh powerlooms in Bhiwandi on Wednesday began the ten day strike protesting against the recently hiked electricity tariff.

"Powerloom units having an estimated eight lakh powerlooms are closed since Tuesday midnight. The bandh is complete and total", Shaban Azami, a local weaver, said while talking to the

The bandh against the electricity tariff is called by "Bhiwandi Sangharsh Samiti" - an umbrella body formed with the support of all NGOs associated with local the powerloom industry, social groups and political parties.

The ten-day protest bandh was planned last week after the electricity distribution company distributed electricity bills with revised tariff.

"The electricity tariff in Maharashtra is already on the higher side if compared with other states. The government had announced in winter session of the assembly held in Nagpur last year that it will supply electricity to powerloom industry on subsidised rate of Rs.1.80. Despite the announcement in the assembly, the cabinet later revised this rate to Rs.2.57 per unit. But, we were shocked when we received last month's bill whith a tariff which was hiked again", Azmi said.

Bhiwandi, some 60 kms from Mumbai, is a major textile centre in India. Of the total 22 lakh powerlooms in the country, Bhiwandi alone has about eight lakh powerlooms with over half a million labourers.

Besides the huge loss the industry is expected to incur due to the bandh call, the labourers who are mostly migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are facing the toughest time of their life.

"We do not have any other means of income besides working as powerloom machine operators and other related jobs in local powerloom units. Our earning is not enough to save money. With the bandh call, we do not have option but to return home", Zulfikar Ahmed, a labourer said.

Dr Rehan Ansari, a medical practitioner and also a columnist with an Urdu daily, expressed concern over the prevailing situation in the city.

"The bandh was necessary due to the attitude of the government and the electricity company. But the exodus of the labourers from the city will inflict a major blow to the industry, and it will take months for a recovery even though the bandh is called off", he said.

Meanwhile, the government is completely silent on the issue and has not shown any note of the bandh.

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