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Jindal Steel Works at Dolvi, Maharashtra. April 2018.

Dolvi’s Doldrums and Fayazuddin’s Lock-in

Nestled on the banks of the Amba River is JSW’s Dolvi plant, which houses one of the steel conglomerates four blast furnaces in India. According to media reports, this blast furnace, like much of humanity, has been shut down — a magnanimous feat I wrote about last week.

While India’s lock-down lingers on, the idea of a ‘lock-in’ has gained traction. Aman Sharma of the Economic Times had this to say on 13 April 2020, “PM Narendra Modi is said to have suggested a “lock-in” for factories with workers staying onsite and maintaining social distancing. The Centre is contemplating measures to bring migrant workers from camps to their factories, possibly by running special buses or trains.”

Let us pause the “lock-in” concept for a moment, and return to our flight over Dolvi, which was enroute to Hyderabad. Upon landing in mid 2018, I was introduced to Mohammed Fayazuddin, India’ first town-planner. Fayazuddin Sahab passed away in 1974, but he lives on through his writings which now appear to collect more dust than the inside of JSW’s Dolvi blast furnace.

Writing in “Housing and Planning for India” in 1946, Mohammed Fayazuddin had this to say about housing for industrial staff, “The latest idea of housing the workers is not merely to provide shelter from sun and rain as is often thought. In essence, the colony should be comfortable, attractive, well laid out, situated not more than a mile at the most from the works, preferably separated by a green belt to keep off the noise, dust and smoke of the factories. It should be a self-contained unit.”

In other words, a people-centric-lock-in plan, many of which Fayazuddin would go on to plan and realize in Hyderabad state during his lifetime.

While Dolvi sleeps and the Prime Minister ponders how to fight the current battle, let us close with this prophetic introductory “Author’s Note” from Fayazuddin’s pre-Independence report:

We have successfully fought for honour and for freedom against the enemies of civilization but we have yet to fight, and fight continuously against deadlier enemies of mankind nearer home. We have to battle against slums, against overcrowding, against disease, suffering, and death.”

Mohammed Fayazuddin, 1946

Robert Stephens

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