(Above An earlier resolution of Cine Workers and their gathering on Annual day -26th January coming to hear Shri Mithun Chakraborty, the then Chairman of Labour union – Opender Chanana was the Consultant who is in the first pic in a lecture)
LIVING ON THE EDGE (-DEGLAMOURISING BOLLYWOOD)-SHELTER FOR WORKFORCE OF ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY NOWHERE ,ONLY A LIP SERVICE BY GOVERNMENTS
–BY OPENDER CHANANA©
The year was 1985.
The Cine Costume and Make-up Artists & Hair Dressers Association initiated a project for housing for its members. The late Mr. Sunil Dutt, actor and Parliamentarian was approached for his assistance in approaching the State Government for allotment of land for the project. Mr. Dutt, however, was of the opinion that asking for land for members of only one craft association would do great injustice for members of other associations.
On his suggestion a meeting was convened where it was decided that a Housing Project for members of all craft associations be formed and should be appropriately called Dadasaheb Phalke Housing Society Ltd. (Proposed). The project also had the support of Mr. Vilas Savant, the then State Minister.
Mr Jagat Kumar, representing the Cine Costume and Make-up Artists & Hair Dressers Association was initially the Chief Promoter, while Mr. Ram Mohan was appointed as Secretary. Mr. Amir Bhai took the responsibility of Treasurer of the proposed society. Subsequently Mr. Raj Verukhia took over as its Chief Promoter while Mr. Baldev Malik was appointed as its Secretary.
A circular was sent to all affiliated association for enrolment of members of the Society. Nearly 1500 members were enrolled. Each member paid Rs.501/- towards his share. Each affiliate was asked to nominate a Promoter to the Society.
In 1987 Mr. Dutt took a delegation of Mr. Verukhia, Mr. Baldev Malik, Mr. Amir Bhai, and Mr Ram Mohan to Mr. S.B. Chavan, the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra. He took up the issue of allotment of land for the proposed society in a meeting held on 21 December 1987 and urged the Chief Minister to initiate the process for allotment of land.
Since members of the entertainment industry were always at the forefront in championing all national causes, the weaker sections of the industry deserved to have a roof over their head, he argued before the Chief Minister. It seems, Mr. Chavan was convinced and immediately took necessary steps to take the matter forward.
Mr. Verukhia recalls that with the assistance of an architect a plan for 23 acres of land that would house homes for workers, a social club, and a clinic was prepared and even a vacant land in Four Bungalows was identified. Unfortunately they were informed that the land under reference was reserved for usage by Government. Mr. Verukhia also points out that subsequently other places too were identified but in all cases the concerned State department often found a reason to refuse allotment.
The saga of unrewarding efforts continued and interaction with successive Chief Ministers of the state as well as concerned Ministers did not yield any concrete result despite assurances.
The promoters, through the good offices of Mr. Mansoor also had a meeting with Mr. Dilip Kumar who took up the issue with Mr. Sharad Pawar, who happened to be the Chief Minister of the State at that time. He too showed keen interest in taking the project forward but the file never inched forward.
It is important to take note of the recommendations made by several stalwarts of the industry to not only to successive Chief Ministers of the State but also the Central Government Ministers.
The promoters made several visits to the office of Forest and Revenue Department. The File bearing No. LCS/260/489-CR-445-J-3 continues to remain static and due to apathy and indifference of the all concerned in the Government, the project has remained on paper.
Ms Balbir Ward, member, Central Advisory Committee on Cine Welfare Fund took the initiative once again in January 2004. She sought the assistance of Mr. R.K. Chandolia, Welfare Commissioner (HQ), New Delhi in taking the project forward by taking up the matter with the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. She wrote to him on January 5, 2004, enclosing a copy of her communication addressed to Mr. Kiran Shantaram, the then Sheriff of Mumbai. Her letter was accompanied by copies of letters of recommendation of the following stalwarts:
- Mr. Sunil Dutt’s letter dated 2nd February 1988 to Mr. S.B. Chavan, Chief Minister.
- Mr. Baldev Khosa’s letter dated 2nd February 1988 to Mr. S.B. Chavan, Chief Minister.
- Mr. Amitabh Bachchan’s letter dated 13th April 1988 to Mr. S.B. Chavan, Chief Minister
- Mr. Naushad Ali’s letter dated 22nd January 1989 to Mr. Sharad Pawar, Chief Minister.
- Mr. Dada Kondke’s letter dated 2nd September 1995 to Mr. Sudhir Joshi (Forest & Revenue Department).
- Mr. Raam Laxman’s letter dated 2nd September 1995 to Mr. Sudhir Joshi.
- Mr. Eknath Gaikwad’s letter dated 22nd September, 1993
- Mr. Pramod Navalkar’s (Minister of Cultural Affair) letter dated 10th November 1995
Ms Ward also took the opportunity to enclose copies of letters received from various Ministers and officials in response to submission made by Promoters for allotment of land.
- Mr. Eknath Gaikwad, Minister, dated 22nd September 1993 2. Mr. Pramod Navalkar, Minister for Cultural Affairs, dated 10th November 1995
- Mr. A.B. Ambrekar, Secretary to Minister, dated 18th February 1996
- Mr. Shivaji Patankar, Officer, Forest & Revenue Department, dated 6th May, 2002.
The doyen of Indian Cinema Mr. L.V. Prasad, himself the winner of coveted Dadasaheb Phalke Award also took up the issue with Mr. S.B. Chavan, the Chief Minister vide his communication dated 13th February 1988.
In the year 2005 Mr. K. Chandra Sekhar Rao, the then Minister, Labour & Employment, Government of India referred to the representation received from Ms Ward to Mr. Vilasrao Deshmukh, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, strongly recommending allotment of land for houses.
It will be in the fitness of things that content of this communication is reproduced to reiterate the fact that enough goodwill had been generated in the corridors of power. But the project could never be implemented. The communication under reference is dated 28th January 2005
Dear Shri Vilasrao Deshmukh ji,
A copy of representation received from Ms Balbir Ward, Member, Central Advisory Committee on Cine Workers Welfare Fund is enclosed herewith. She has represented that the Cine Workers Association under the name of Dadasaheb Phalke Co-op Housing Society has been representing to the Government of Maharashtra right from 1987 for allotment of land for house-site in and around Mumbai.
I am given to understand my predecessor had also addressed the then Chief Minister for sanction of House-site in survey No.41 in Charkop, Kandivali, and survey No.341 at Bandra (E) at Borivali. It appears that the representation is very reasonable. Hence I shall be grateful if you could kindly get the representation examined and consider for allotment of land for houses. In case there is any constraint in allotting land, I request that they may be allotted readymade flats constructed which are reported to be coming up in Mumbai on usual terms and conditions. I shall be happy if you could kindly send me a line of reply on the action taken.
(K. Chandra Sekhar Rao)
Shri Vilasrao Deshmukh,Chief Minister of Maharashtra
Bhausaheb Hiray Marg,Malabar Hill,Mumbai: 06
A copy of the above referred letter was by Mr. T. Prabhakar Rao, OSD to the Minister.
Mr Verukhia also has on record the recommendation letter penned by Ms Lata Mangeshkar to the Chief Minister. When Mr Sunil Dutt led the delegation to meet Mr Chavan, the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra, he urged him to take into consideration the following pertinent points:
- That workers, artists, and technicians had always been in the forefront in lending their assistance and help whenever the nation was faced with any national calamity.
- That a project named after the Father of Indian Cinema, Dadasaheb Phalke would be a befitting tribute to the legend and his ideals.
- .That workers and technicians, especially those who had no house of their own deserved to have a roof over their head.
Since the Proposed society could not get any land allotted to it, it did not get itself registered. After two decades of untiring efforts and assurances by those at the helm of affairs, the Promoters decided to take legal advice and were told that a large amount collected from shareholders could not be withheld for an indefinite period, especially when the Society had no legal status. Therefore on 24th July 2004 in the meeting of all associations which was held in the office of FWICE it was unanimously decided to return Rs.2, 000/-(inclusive of interest) to each member by Payee’s account cheque through their association as full and final. Not all members could avail of this offer. After a long gap a meeting of the Office Bearers was held on 25th January 2008 at the office of FWICE and it was decided to return Rs.2, 200/- to each member by through their association. It was also decided that the Chief Promoter Mr. Verukhia and Ms Balbir Ward will continue to make efforts to get the land for workers under the guidance of FWICE. In case of any favourable development the senior members of the society will get a priority, especially those who were without any shelter.
It can be said with certainty that while blaming all the concerned authorities for not taking the project forward, there is a lesson for the trade union movement in the cinema and television industry –they should have taken an aggressive stand and even used the peaceful means of noncooperation and dharnas to draw attention of the media and authorities to the utter neglect and apathy towards the plight of workers and technicians engaged in the industry. Efforts were also made by FSS&AMU (Film Studio Setting & Allied Mazdoor Union), probably the largest union having membership strength of nearly forty thousand members, in acquiring land from the State Government for construction of houses for its members. The union often invited Members of State Assembly and eminent personalities on the occasion of its Annual Day that is celebrated on 26th of January each year. Thousands of workers throng the venue to hear
Mr. Verukhia, in his interaction with the author states that refund with interest has been returned to 1000 members and that the society still has 500 members. For him the project is not dead. According to him the successive Governments and Ministers have only paid a lip service to the issue and need for a shelter/roof for the workers and technicians.
The union often invited Members of State Assembly and eminent personalities on the occasion of its Annual Day that is celebrated on 26th of January each year. Thousands of workers throng the venue to hear their Chairman in person who often choses this day to announce new welfare schemes for the members and their families.
It is observed that while politicians are invited to address the gathering they are always found wanting in fulfilling their promises. One such promise pertains to allotment of land for providing roof over the heads of members who belong to the economically weaker section of society. In the year 2007 the Chairman wrote to Mr. Narayan Rane, Revenue Minister, Government of Maharashtra drawing his attention to the need of providing plot on concessional rate for construction of a housing complex. The proposed complex was supposed to house a medical clinic and a playground as well. The association sought allotment of land measuring 10 acres for the purpose. It also drew the attention of the concerned Minister towards the living and working conditions of its members as under:
- On account of nature of their work, members could consider themselves lucky if they could get work for more than 10-15 days in a month.
- Being daily wage earners they had no definite regular source of income and hence could not dream of acquiring a home of their own ,
- Long working hours and punishing schedules leaving no room for any rest or recreation.
- Majority of members continue to reside in unhygienic conditions. Irregular working hours often leave them with little time for their families. Returning to slums that provide them temporary shelter provided no relief.
The association made a plea for allotment of land in suburbs like New Link Road, Jogeshwari, Oshiwara, Goregaon, Malad, Versova, Yari Road, or vacant land behind Lokhandwala Complex. If no land could be allotted in these areas, they left it to the discretion of the government to allot land at any other convenient place. A copy of their communication was also sent to Mr. Vilasrao Deshmukh, the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra and the District Collector. Having failed to receive any response, the Chairman sent a rejoinder to Mr. Rane vide his communication of 17th February 2007 and 16th May 2007. Copies of all letters were duly endorsed to the Chief Minister Mr. Deshmukh. A copy was also marked to the District Collector for his reference and perusal. The Senior Vice Chairman in his communication dated 13th June 2007 and addressed to the City Survey Officer, Tehsildar Office, Borivali requested him to take note of letter addressed by Mr. Rane, the Revenue Minister to him regarding allotment of land.
Subsequently, the Collector referred the matter to Borivali’s Tehsildar Office (Mumbai). The association further referred to availability of vacant plot (Property Card no. 258/A&25) and requested the concerned authority to conduct survey of 10 acres of the vacant plot. When there was no compliance on the part of concerned authorities the Chairman in his annual address to huge gathering of members and in the presence of various stalwarts of the industry made a fervent plea to Mr. Baldev Khosa, the Member of State Assembly. Mr. Khosa, himself an eminent artist in the industry promised the Chairman that he will not let the association down and would take the matter forward. That was in the year 2010. Ironically in the annual meeting held on 26th January 2011 which was attended by the various stalwarts as well as Central Minister, Mr. Khosa reassured the members that he would get the needful done. The Chairman, due to unavoidable circumstances, could not attend this meet.
What emerges from all the above referred initiatives taken by concerned associations as well as the Promoters of Proposed Dadasaheb Phalke Housing Society is that those at the helm of affairs in trade union movement have failed to realize that until and unless they resort dharnas, strike and agitation, no Government or authority would take notice of their demands and needs. When unions of other industries are able to draw the attention of authorities by using legitimate tools of fasting and strike their voice is not only heard in the corridors of power but immediate steps are taken by the Government to redress their grievances. Only the organized sector unions under the patronage of political parties are able to make their presence felt in the corridors of power.
Mr. Chanana is an alumnus of Government College,Ludhiana-India.This premier institution completes t’s 100th year of establishment.He has been associated with Drama- and Cinema right since college days and was also awarded college colour then.
Mr. Chanana makes Film Documentaries in Mumbai and his documentary ‘DE-Glamorising the Bollywood’ depicting poor plight of cine workers has been rewarded globally with 282 awards till date ,thus recognising issues raised by him.
Kudos to Opender Chanana for his relentless efforts for a cause so dear to him.
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