Parties in Punjab abandon ‘My Fair Lady’ - Mandi Gobindgarh News

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Sunday, April 14, 2019

Parties in Punjab abandon ‘My Fair Lady’


Parties in Punjab abandon ‘My Fair Lady’

Ravi Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service
Dhariwal (Gurdaspur), April 13

Aware that the 139-year old Dhariwal Woollen Mill has lost its value in terms of votes, politicians are unwilling to make an effort to revive it, even if this means the imminent death of ‘My Fair Lady’, one of the more popular brands.

Set up in 1880, the mill became famous, so much so that India-born British writer Sir Rudyard Kipling even mentioned it in one of his works. The factory at one time employed more than 5,000 workers and was said to be a politician’s delight because of the sheer size of its vote bank — more than 25,000 votes, as per conservative estimates.

Old-timers recall that the late five-time MP Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder nurtured it during the early part of her political career, but lost interest as she saw the number of employees dwindle. “In the early eighties, the government started favouring privately managed textile factories and paid scant attention to the government-owed factory.

From 5,000 employees, the figure has now dropped to 330. Former BJP MP Vinod Khanna did take up the matter with the Textile Ministry, but nothing tangible happened. Later, Partap Singh Bajwa during his term as MP tried to bring in a fiscal package from the Board of Industrial and Financial Restructuring (BIFR), but by the time things started looking up, he lost the elections,” said Gurmeet Singh Bakhatpura, vice-president of the Punjab unit of the Central Council of Trade Unions (CCTU), in the forefront of saving ‘My Fair Lady’. But he too is losing hope.

The Mill was nationalised in 1980. After 1989, it stopped generating profit. In 2017, NITI Aayog recommended that it be closed down. In the early nineties, new equipment was imported from Switzerland but a year later it became redundant because of non-availability of raw material.

Sitting MP and Congress candidate Sunil Jakhar says: “To protect the livelihood of the employees, I took up the matter with Textiles Minister Smriti Irani, who assured me that not even a single job would be lost.”

The employees have not been paid their wages for 21 months now. They come, mark their attendance, play cards and leave. Most of them are under debt. Whether the BJP or Congress or AAP, none of the parties care to come to the rescue of ‘My Fair Lady’.

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