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Malegaon, Dhule join mill owners' strike in Maharashtra
Tuesday November 12, 2013 11:08 PM, Staff Reporter

Over 250,000 powerlooms in Malegaon and Dhule were silent on Tuesday as the two textile clusters of the state joined the ongoing stir which began in the first week of November against a recent unilateral hike in electricity tariff.

This is the first time in the recent history of Malegaon that all the powerloom units of the city were closed responding to a bandh call. Last time the city was shutdown in 1987 when a bandh call was given against the state's textile policy.

At some places in the morning few units began work as usual. However, they too joined the stir after they were persuaded by the members of Powerloom Electricity Consumers' Association.

Mill owners in Bhiwandi, Ichalkaranji and other textile clusters are continuing their stir demanding rollback of the hike in the power tariff. While the bandh in Bhiwandi which began on November 06 enters its 7th day on Tuesday, Ichalkaranji is on a strike since last six days.

"All the powerloom units in Malegaon and Dhule were closed. The situation will remain so for the next five days unless the hike in the tariff is revoked. The government should note that we won't end our strike after mere assurances. We want total rollback and revised electricity bills issued in the name of the mill owners", Yusuf Ilyas, convener of the Powerloom Electricity Consumers' Association said while talking to

He also said that the association will sit for a dharna and block the National Highway on Wednesday to press their demands.

Additional SP Sunil Kadasne in a meeting with the members of Powerloom Electricity Consumers' Association today afternoon tried to persuade them to cancel the 'higway-jaam' but the members remained adamant and decided to go ahead with their plan.

"The way electricity regulatory commission is working is strange. First of all, the data it is showing to justify its decision is hard to believe. Next, we are paying our bills and dues regularly. Then, how can it impose additional burden on us if it is incurring losses because of something we are not responsible of?" Yusuf Ilyas asked.

The Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) had in a unilateral decision taken in September hiked the electricity tariff to recover the losses amounting to an estimated 236 crore rupees incurred by the MSEDCL, and issued bills with a revised rate which is about 40% higher than the earlier rates.

"The tariff in the state was already extremely high. The recent hike had made it literally unaffordable. This is the reason why the powerloom weavers who seldom agree to a bandh call are unanimously supporting the strike", Yusuf said.

Meanwhile, the representatives from the textile centres of the state on Monday met Chief Minister Prithvraj Chavan and Power Minister Ajit Pawar in Mumbai and urged them to resolve the issue. Ex-MLA and local Congress leader Shaikh Rasheed who was in the meeting informed the TOI that the chief minister has constituted a high level committee headed by Industry Minister Narayan Rane, and a decision on the issue will be taken after the committee submits its report in the next few days.

Textile industry is regarded as the second largest industrial sector after agriculture providing employment to millions of people. India has over 2.2 million powerlooms. Of this about 1.1 million are in Maharashtra.

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