Hindoostan Spinning &
Weaving Mills Ltd.
VIJAY MERCHANT SHOWED THE WAY!
Generally, workers were shy of announcing the fact that they had been vasectomised, but when the late Vijay Merchant, legendary cricketer and the then Managing Director of Hindoostan Mills, set an example by getting operated after having two children and openly declared the fact, workers also began to talk about it without embarrassment.
It was in 1963 that Hindoostan Mills set up a Family Planning Centre for the benefit of its workers. It was conveniently located in the Health Centre which catered to 3,200 workers and members of their family. In recognition of its outstanding contribution in the field of Family Planning, the Mills was honoured by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) by giving its Family Planning Award in 1969.
Regular eligibility surveys were carried out. The Health Officer of the Family Planning Centre called on eligibles and explained to them the necessity of spacing or controlling the size of the family. Thereafter, they were asked to come along with their wives for counselling. The Health Officer would first talk to the wives alone and then together with the husbands. The family budget of workers would be
discussed an additional mouth to feed would increase expenses. Workers were made to feel that the Health Centre was primarily interested in their welfare. The mode of counselling was very rewarding.
Hindoostan Mills also offered monetary and non-monetary incentives since the inception of its Family Planning programme. It paid Rs. 40/- in cash for sterilization to both males and females. An additional amount of Rs. 10/- was given for follow-up. Operations were usually performed on a day prior to a holiday. However, only vasectomy operations were performed at the Mill’s Health Centre. Tubectomies were attended to in the respective hospitals where the female worker or the worker’s wife delivered the baby. Workers were then entitled to one day extra leave. In case, however, the next day on which the operation was performed was a working day, two days extra leave was allowed. Athletic supporters (Indian langots) were supplied free; so also transport from the Centre to the worker’s residence.
Another source of motivation was the workers already vasectomised. Generally, workers were shy of announcing the fact that they had been vasectomised, but when the late Vijay Merchant, legendary cricketer and then Managing Director of Hindoostan Mills, set an example by getting operated after having two children and openly declared the fact, workers also talked about it without embarrassment. A little-known fact is that Vijay Merchant was a scion of the illustrious Thackersay group of erstwhile Bombay. Once Vijay’s English schoolmaster asked him his family name or business, which in any case in India could be synonymous. It seems that the young Vijay got confused and blurted out “merchant”. Since then, the word “merchant” became his surname forever. Nevertheless, Vijay saw one great advantage in bearing a different
surname he did not have the burden of carrying the reputation of a big family industrial house. Vijay grew to be a batsman of world class.
Vijay Merchant took great interest in the welfare of the Mills’ workers and also shouldered the additional responsibility of a social worker. He personally counselled the most difficult and unwilling workers. As a result, a number of workers took up voluntary service. Hindoostan Mills never felt the necessity of having any paid social workers on its rolls. According to records available, on December 31, 1972, of the 1,839 workers, 80 per cent were covered by the Family Planning programme, either through sterilization or by the use of contraceptives. Another 111 workers accepted Family Planning later, thus pushing up the percentage to more than 97.
In 1973 the Health Centre of Hindoostan Mills had performed 744 operations giving a performance of 233.5 per thousand. It had also to its credit 7 vasectomy operations performed on workers who suddenly lost their children. Six of them were successful as wives of these workers had conceived and delivered healthy babies.
In the year 1980 the number of employees of Hindoostan Mills rose to 5,404. It had two labour and welfare officers, one assistant welfare officer and six first-aid-cum-medical assistants along with first-aid centres.
However, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end and all bad things don’t last forever. Workers of Hindoostan Mills took to strike in the early eighties and destroyed all that was built for them. The accent on human relations, which at one time constituted the major part of the Family Planning programme, ceased.
Courtesy: Mr. D.P. Udeshi