As eviction drives against illegal hawkers gathered steam over the last week, autorickshaw union leader, Sharad Rao, threatened that autorickshaws and hawkers would go on strike on February 19 to protest the move.
Rao, who often threatens Mumbaiites with strikes by autorickshaws, taxis, BEST employees and civic workers, also heads Mumbai Hawkers’ Union—a body of hawkers in the city.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) along with the Mumbai police evicted more than 4,500 illegal hawkers across the city over the last five days.
“The government is trying to get rid of poor, hardworking people like hawkers and auto drivers. They contribute Rs. 50,000 crore by hawking trade and Rs. 6,000 crore by autorickshaw trade,” said Sharad Rao, at a press conference by Mumbai Hawkers’ Union. He added that such eviction drives were affecting the economy of the state.
The union has also demanded that at least three lakh licences be given to existing hawkers in the city. If these demands are not met, Rao warned that a massive agitation would begin from February 19.
However, Rao’s threat received flak from other auto unions and consumer groups.
KK Tiwari, president, Swabhimaan auto-taxi union said, “There is no relation between hawkers and auto drivers. Auto-taxi drivers are happy with the current fares and have no pending demands. Auto drivers are unnecessarily being dragged into the issue to inconvenience people.”
Shirish Deshpande, chairman, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat challenged Rao’s threat to go on strike.
“Although auto drivers are sensible enough to not join the protest, if they do dare to go ahead with the move, we will file a case against them,” said Deshpande.