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Veggie shortage scare ends in city

Mathadis (head loaders) decided to end the strike that paralysed vegetable and fruit supplies to Mumbai on Monday. Supplies are expected to normalise on Tuesday.

mumbai Updated: Oct 26, 2010 01:05 IST

Mathadis (head loaders) decided to end the strike that paralysed vegetable and fruit supplies to Mumbai on Monday. Supplies are expected to normalise on Tuesday.

The decision to end the strike was taken after talks with the state government.

The mathadis were demanding government housing, a guarantee of safety and jobs for those who shift elsewhere, and a new mathadi board to resolve their issues. Around 85,000 mathadis who load and unload consignments from trucks, stayed away from markets in Thane, Mumbai, Raigad, Nashik, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Satara and Kolhapur.

Maharashtra Rajya Mathadi Transport and Kamgar Union leader and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) legislator Shashikant Shinde said the government had accepted the major demands — housing and the formation of a mathadi board.

The workers, who also deliver gas cylinders to your home, did not work on Monday. Shinde said the strike was total across the state.

“Mathadis will get 490 plots in Koparkhairane and 2,500 plots in Ghansoli within a month to build their houses. The board will be formed within a month too,” said Shinde after meeting Chief Secretary JP Dange and Labour Secretary Kavita Gupta.

About 2,500 houses were built for mathadis six years ago but have not yet been allotted.

The government also promised them police protection in case of any untoward incidents.

On Monday, the Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) at Vashi remained shut.

All five wholesale markets there — vegetable, fruit, onion and potato, foodgrain and spices — were shut. The APMC which is
usually abuzz, was empty. Employees played cricket in the yards as trucks stood idle and shutters stayed down.

On average, 2,500 trucks carrying produce arrive at the market every day. The produce is transferred to tempos, around 3,500 of which carry it to Mumbai. On Monday, there were no arrivals. Only 90 tempos carrying vegetables reportedly left for Mumbai.

With vegetable and foodgrain supply halted, prices in areas around the APMC rose by around 50 percent.

The shortage immediately led to a rise in retail prices in Navi Mumbai. Rakesh Gupta, a vegetable vendor at Vashi, said:

“We sold most of our stock on Sunday. We couldn’t stock up on vegetables earlier as they rot.”

Mumbaiites heaved a sigh of relief after the strike was called off. Some, such as Ghatkopar homemaker Chandni Ghatani, stocked up on vegetables over the weekend. “I heard about the strike and did not want to take any chances as everyone in my family is vegetarian,” she said.

Some vegetable markets, such as those at Borivli and Matunga, were shut in the morning. Markets in other areas, such as those at Bandra and Ghatkopar, were open but were not as crowded as they usually are.

Earlier in the day, Narendra Patil, general secretary of the mathadi union, struck an aggressive note, saying: “Despite the fact that mathadis have traditionally supported the NCP, the government is completely indifferent to our problems. The government knew of the strike but did nothing.”

Patil warned of political repercussions if their demands were not met. “If no solution is reached by Tuesday evening, we will not vote for NCP-Congress candidates in the Kalyan-Dombivli civic election on October 31.”

Later, after meeting Dange and Gupta, he said: “This is a huge victory for mathadis. We have shown our might. We are returning to work and the situation will normalise on Tuesday.”