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Sunday, Nov 17, 2019

Former Mumbai & Mohun Bagan football star fights to save his hawking space

Uday Konar is fighting to save his hawking space from land sharks in Mumbai

football Updated: Sep 18, 2019 09:46 IST
Uday Konar sits at his hawking space in Colaba. His father used to run a newspaper stall at the spot since 1960s
Uday Konar sits at his hawking space in Colaba. His father used to run a newspaper stall at the spot since 1960s(Pratik Chorge/HT Photo)

Winner of the National Football League with Mohun Bagan and Santosh Trophy with Maharashtra, former star forward Uday Konar is facing a fight for survival in the face of harassment from land sharks at the Colaba Causeway who are looking to evict him from his hawking space on the footpath opposite the Electric House.

Konar has knocked the doors of official agencies against intimidation and harassment to no avail.

In a decorated football career, Konar was part of the Mohun Bagan side that won the 2001-02 National Football League (now I-League), scoring a couple of crucial goals while combining with Bagan’s Brazilian legend Jose Ramirez Barreto. He was also part of the Maharashtra squad that won the gold medal in football at the 1999 National Games as well as the 2000 Santosh Trophy.

He has also played for Mumbai’s top outfits, Air India and Mahindra & Mahindra, apart from big teams in Goa such as the Churchill Brothers, Salgaocar FC and Sesa Goa.

It is a typical ordeal for a street vendor who gets targeted by powerful lobbies which use force and bullying tactics to evict them. In Konar’s case, local goons with the help of influential people in the area are trying to grab the hawking space at the Colaba causeway, from where his father ran a newspaper stall since the 1960s. They are also trying to grab control of all the spots allotted to his family in the close vicinity.

In the past couple of months harassment has turned more aggressive, manhandling Konar and even his wife on a couple of occasions, while mentally torturing them so that they give up their spots.

“I have two daughters to look after and this (hawking space) is my only source of bread and butter. These goons are using all means possible so that I give up my right to the spot. Some local influential people are also involved in helping them,” says Konar.

Konar’s father came to Mumbai in the 1960s and after dabbling in few businesses, he started his own newspaper stall on the footpath opposite the Electric House—the headquarters of BEST. He expanded to four more small stalls and got the BMC license for each one of them.

But ever since the harassment began, the former Mumbai football star was forced to shut shop completely and keep continuous guard of his stalls.

Since his birth, Konar’s life has revolved around these stalls which not only supported the family but also his football career.

“They have been threatening me with dire consequences for the last couple of months so as to bully me out of my ancestral hawking spots,” Konar says.

The other hawkers in the vicinity agree with Konar and say there is a group of people who is using bullying tactics to grab spots across the causeway. Konar’s friends say they have seen his family operate from the location for a long time, and ‘these new guys just want to fleece the space’.

“I have been fighting a lone battle along with my wife (Krishnaveni). I have also filed a police complaint when they manhandled my wife but no action has been taken against the harassment. I don’t know where to go now,” says a dejected Konar.

For the past couple of months, the spots have been vacant as Konar and his family haven’t been allowed to operate. And in order to ensure they don’t lose their only source of income to the miscreants, both Konar and his wife take turns to keep a vigil.

If a decorated city footballer faces such harassment then imagine the helplessness of the common man.