At one end of this road in the former textile mill dominated area in Mumbai is the office of the CPM, Communist party of India (Marxist) and the other is the  comrade P.K. Kurne  chowk square in Worli. But the area in between  is being gentrified as no other   in this former working class city.

High rise luxury towers have been rising in the mill district for  almost three decades because land sharks have closed down mills and used the prime space  as  gold for themselves.  Now, the  international  furniture  giant Ikea is set to open its facility on December 9  in the land of the former Kamala textile mill priding itself as Utopia City, indeed  it is a utopia for the rich, the ultimate site of  luxury of consumption. It  is an attempt to  hide a sordid history..  . On 29 December 2017, a fire broke out at Kamala Mills, a commercial complex in Lower ParelMumbai, causing  the deaths of 14 people, and injuries to 55 more. The fire began in a bar, 1 Above, and spread to an adjacent pub, Mojo’s Bistro, before spreading through the rest of the building in which they were housed.  There were numerous violations noticed  subsequently by the municipal corporation but its own staff had colluded in some of the irregularities.

Inside the  mill compound is also  the government’s  passport office ironically in premises leased to it by Tata Consultancy. What an irony , the government   diluted is own rules on  textile mills  giving benefits of thousands of crores to mill owners and builders and it has to depend upon corporates for this little piece of land.  All this is on   Pandurang Budhkar Marg which is very wide and  made suitable for  corporate dominance.

The Ikea facility will be located on 80,000 sq ft.   which is a huge space but  comparatively much smaller than its normal  stores extending upto  four lakh sq ft. And we complain about hawkers occupying small bits of land in the city though they cater to basic needs of millions of people.

Opposite  Kamala mill complex is the  Birla Centurion  where its mill stood but  in the last few years  it had  created a huge  lawn and green space in the premises unlike any  other  management of  textile mill land. It is going to make way for a luxury tower of some 75 storeys called Nyaara, it probably means  lovely , opinion is divided. Surely it will be nice for the rich and  an affront to  generations of textile mill workers.

Barring one gate, one gets to see little inside the big complex. Much of it  is like a huge enclosure with a very high wall apparently in obvious violation of civic norms. The wall is painted with bird, plant and animal life to give it  an environment friendly look but  that is just a façade and a cruel one.

Opposite  the plush   Birla  empire one sees absolute poverty. On the footpath  live  a few people   weaving  bamboo baskets.Then there is also  a small dilapidated little gate with fading  letters suggesting  that here stands the closed Madhusudan mill of  the National Textile Corporation. Fortunately, it  seems to have survived  corrupt  and failed  deals with builders.

On the same road  has come up a huge complex  in the area of  Bombay Dyeing mill  and thee is a very luxurious tower of Lodha  builders called Lodha Park.  Surprisingly and a little credit is due  here, it does not  violate  the footpath space  as huge  luxury buildings invariably do.

Towards the other end of the road  a bus stop has been taken over with a big banner of  Raj Thakceray-led Maharashtra Nava Nirman Sena. One wonders if it is paying anything at all to the  BEST undertaking.

The nearest  suburban railway station to this area is  Elphinstone Road now renamed  Prabhadevi.  As one comes  out of the  station on the main road one sees a nice old chawl, still in good condition, named Laxmi Nivas. It is completely dwarfed by luxury towers in the background  clearly indicating that  Laxmi, the  goddess of wealth, has already shifted to the very very wealthy, unscrupulous rich if one may say so

Vidyadhar Date is a senior journalist and author of a book on public transport

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