The attempts of National Textile Corp. Ltd, or NTC, to redevelop units in Mumbai has hit a snag because some buildings at its old mills have been listed as heritage structures and cannot be pulled down.
The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, or Intach, a national, non-profit conservation body, has in a public interest litigation, or PIL, in the Bombay high court presented a list of heritage buildings it wishes to preserve. The list contains some structures in four NTC mills earmarked for redevelopment.
Historical significance: The joint venture mills had invoked a lot of interest from the private sector. Hindustan Times
NTC has been shuttering some units that sit on premium land in India’s commercial capital and selling them to private parties, besides also aiming to start joint ventures to continue textile-related activities in some others.
In 2008, the firm signed memorandums of understanding, or MoUs, with Alok Industries Ltd, Bhaskar Industries Ltd and Pantaloon Retail (India) Ltd to start 51:49 joint ventures to redevelop five mills instead of selling them off for realtors to build homes and malls. Four of these are in Mumbai and one in Aurangabad.
“Until the heritage court issue is resolved, we can’t develop these four mills and development plans can’t be submitted to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, which clears all plans,” said R.K. Sharma, director, technical, NTC. The four mills are New City Mill, Apollo Mill, Gold Mohur Mill and India United Number 1. The high court heard arguments on the lawsuit on Monday and the next hearing is scheduled in the first week of February. The NTC board will know the specific date after 25 January.
“These mills located in great locations in central Mumbai will open up great potential for NTC to maximize their opportunities,” said Ashish Dhir, associate vice-president at management consulting firm Technopak Advisors Pvt. Ltd.
“There are a few heritage structures in the four mills that have been put up for JVs (joint ventures) and we are trying to save as many of them as possible from being demolished,” said Tasneem Mehta, head of Intach, Mumbai.
Intach first filed a PIL regarding the heritage buildings in 2005, when NTC started selling and redeveloping some mills. The state government in a notification then delisted many heritage structures in the mills and Intach retaliated in 2008 through an amended petition to the high court challenging the delisting.
The heritage issue has hindered NTC’s attempts to sell its remaining 12 mills in Mumbai. “Most heritage structures were delisted, which is why NTC went ahead and called for joint ventures, but the amended petition has stopped all plans,” said a senior NTC official, who didn’t want to be identified as he is not authorized to speak to the media.
The joint venture mills, in which NTC proposed to hold 51% stake, had invoked a lot of interest from the private sector. But no development has happened so far.
“The amended petition was filed after we signed the MoUs, and so nothing could be done about it,” said Sunil Khandelwal, chief financial officer of Alok Industries. “We have finalized our plans in the last few months but cannot do much till the case is over.” The company plans to set up a garment manufacturing unit in the mill.
NTC had also invited bids for joint ventures for another 11 mills. Mumbai-based Krishna Knitwear Technology Ltd that manufactures and exports apparel has picked up all the mills located in rural Maharashtra such as Dhule and Akola.
“We have taken up the mills but we haven’t been given official delivery of the mills yet,” said a senior official of Krishna Knitwear, requesting anonymity as the MoU formalities aren’t done.