Bombay Cotton Mills: Origin, Decline and Re-development
By 1925, most of Mills were owned and managed by Indians, by then out of the fifty-three mills in the city only fourteen were British owned.
Two major international events led to a boost to the Indian cotton trade and the mill industry, the American Civil War and the Afghanistan War. During the four year long American Civil War the supply of cotton to Britain from Southern Coast of america stopped and in turn the British looked to India as a source of cotton supply. In Bombay many locals merchants became over night rich because of this trade including Premchand Roychand and other members of the Bhatia Community. At that time most of the cotton supply came from the Vidarbha region and Gujarat. In 1860s the American Civil War broke out which abruptly cut off the supply of cotton to Lancashire from southern American Coast and this supply gap was filled by Indian Cotton that was shipped off from the Bombay Coast. This brought surplus of cash to Bombay traders and suppliers.
Starting in 1856, the first Mill employed around 500 workers and by 1960s the number of workers rose to around 2 lakhs. From the very beginning the workers came from Konkan region of Maharashtra and were joined in by from Satara, Kolhapur and even Uttar Pradesh.
During the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, a Defense of India Act was promugulated and cotton was placed under the Essantial Commodities Act and most of the cloth produced in the organised mills was reserved for military orders. The War period was an era of boom for the Mill industry.
But then in 1948 with a new fibre 'Viscose' and in mid-fifties; synthetic fabrics such as nylon and polyster gave competition to the cotton and cotton mills.
Energy Requirements of Mills:
During the early stages of mills, the power was produced within the Mill by a steam engine and the method of distributing power was to have one large rope pulley located in the centre of the Mill or at a corner. Ropes were run from the large pulley to a lineshaft pulley at each level and all the equipment were driven by belts from these line shafts. Electrical energy was first introduced into the cotton mills for having good lightning and it was much later in the year 1915 that electricity was used to run the machines.
Sassoon David and Shapurji Bharucha guaranteed Jamsetji Tata to take up a substantial portion of thje initial energy from the Tata Hydro Electric plant.
Mill Workers and Working Hours:
The early mills had no fixed hours of work. Hours varied from 13 to 14 per day in summer and from 10 to 12 per day in winter. Regulation of hours started with the Factories Act of 1881 which limited the hours of children to seven and the hours of women to eleven per day. This was not much of an improvement, since the hours remained unregulated for the bulk of the labour force, which consisted of adult male workers. With the introduction of electric lighting in the 1890's, the hours increased per day to as many as 15.They ware finally brought down by the Factories Act of 1911, which limited the hours of work for adult male workers to 12 per day and the day could not start before 5.30 am nor end after 7pm. Further legislation in later years progressively curtailed the length of the working day. The hours for both men and women have been per day since 1946. This was after the great mill strike which led to an amendment to the Indian Factories Act.
Woman Mill Workers:
According to the study by Bunnet and Hurst into labour and housing, most of the women workers were employed in the waste room and in the ring spinning, reeling and winding departments of the Mills. The forewomen (floor incharge) were known as naikins.
Current Status of Mills
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