Since its closure way back in 1992, workers of DBR Mills are yet to be compensated
The gates of Dewan Bahadur Ramgopal (DBR) Mills were closed more than 20 years ago on the pretext of a temporary power outage.
More than 500 workers, who were sent back that day, were expecting to resume work in a day or two. Days became months and months stretched to decades, but the workers could neither join duty nor did they receive any compensation.
“This closure caught us unawares, and we did not know whom to approach or what to do. Before long the case became complicated with legal issues, and we were left to fend for ourselves,” B. Satyanarayana, President, DBR Mills Displaced Workers’ Association, said.
Without any rehabilitation package, most skilled workers at the mill were forced to seek odd jobs and ended up being day labourers, he lamented. “When the mill was closed, most workers were in their middle age. Majority of them are now senior citizens, and some died in the past few years,” he added. It is natural for one to expect some kind of safety cover during their old age, but DBR workers are ignored at a crucial phase, Satyanarayana complained.
B. Pradeep, General Secretary of the Indian Federation of Trade Unions said that the closure was illegal as then management did not follow the laid-down procedures.
Interestingly, the management still claims that the mill was not shut down but only closed temporarily. “If the mill was not shut down, workers should have been paid their daily wages till date which is not the case right now,” he observed. “While on the one hand the management claims that the mill is not permanently shut down, on the other, the mill has been denuded of all equipment including rafters and beams of the building,” he pointed out.
“The protracted problem can easily be resolved,” Mr. Pradeep argued.
“The mill is caught in a series of legal tangles both in the State and at the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR). But the State government in 2008 notified that the mill cannot be operated in the present location as it would lead to pollution, and by submitting this decision at BIFR the case can be easily resolved,” he pointed out.
CPI MLC Chandrasekhar and Bellampalli MLA G. Mallesh, along with AITUC and CPI representatives, participated in the demonstration organised by the DBR Mills Displaced Workers Association on the mill premises on Thursday and demanded an early solution to the issue.
75-year-old stares at uncertainty
Venkataiah, 75, joined DBR Mills in 1964 and was trained on the job as a mechanic. After working for three decades, he found that the mill was suddenly closed in February, 1992. “I returned to work one day at 7.30 a.m. but found the gates were closed. We were told that the mill would not work for two days owing to power cut. We kept coming back to enquire about the reopening but it never happened,” Venkataiah said.
“I have two daughters, and they were in their late teens when the mill was closed. I had no savings, and with the closure, I was forced to take up job as a painter,” he said. Without safety nets such as provident fund and insurance, Venkataiah was forced to work till about four years ago. “I fell down and broke my right pelvis and thigh four years ago and could not work since then,” he lamented.
Unable to work and laden with a debt of Rs. 60,000, Venkataiah survives on his daughters’ help.