Airport cargo caught in clash of the Senas

Months after Sena-led trade union begins charging Rs 500 from every vehicle for entry at airport cargo complex, MNS counterpart does the same; traders allege authorities are aware of the malpractice but haven't taken any action

The Shiv Sena-MNS rivalry seems to have spilled out from rallies and election campaigns into the airport complex. Sample this: sometime in the middle of last year, Maharashtra Maal Vahatuk Sena (MMVS), a Shiv Sena offspring, started collecting Rs 500 from traders, for every vehicle that enters the Mumbai Airport Cargo Complex in Sahar. Last month, the MNS-affiliate trade union Hawai Karamchari Sena, in a sort of delayed reflex, started collecting an equal amount per vehicle.

Ripped off: Other than the fees they must pay to customs, Octroi and
the airport authority, the truck owners have to fork out an additional Rs
1,000 per vehicle that is collected by the two unions. File pic

When the hapless traders inquired on what authority or rationale the collection is made, the reply is straightforward, "The other party's union is charging you, so we are charging you. If they stop the practice, we would stop it too."

'They did it first'
"About six months ago, the Sena-supported union (MMVS) started charging Rs 500. Now, the MNS-led Hawai Karamchari Sena has started the same. We have to pay Rs 500 to each of the unions. The MNS workers said they would do stop the collection only if the Sena-backed trade union stopped it," a top trader said on the condition of anonymity.

MiD DAY is in exclusive possession of some of the receipts the two parties' unions furnished to tempo operators against a collection of fee of Rs 500.

Nothing official about it: MNS-led Hawai Karamchari and Sena-backed
Maharashtra Maal Vahatuk Sena have no authority to collect this money
from transporters or give out receipts in return

President of Maharashtra Vahatuk Sena Uday Dalvi confirmed the Sena's patronage to MMVS. "MMVS is our wing. It basically deals with cargo," said Dalvi.

Said MMVS President Vijay Chitre, "We collect this fee because most transporters hire vehicles from private parties, leaving our vehicles without a job. We have told transporters on many occasions that we would not want this fee if they start hiring our vehicles. Only if they listened!"

MNS spokesperson Nitin Sardesai said, "I am not aware of the issue. It must be a matter of a local unit. I will find out about it and look into the matter."

The pettiness of the one-upmanship has left traders in the lurch, they said. Other than the fees they must pay to customs, Octroi and the airport authority, they have to fork out an additional Rs 1,000 per vehicle.

Their frustration is plain from their complaint letters to various authorities like the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the Customs, and the CEO of Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL).

MiD DAY is in possession of several letters sent by trader associations. One of them reads, 'The situation now has gone from bad to worse. The exim (export import) trade is forced to pay such illegitimate amounts (Rs 500-2,500) to these groups for every truck/tempo that arrives at the cargo complex. The MIAL security has been unable to prevent these forceful collections. The situation has reached a stage where the trade is being openly threatened with dire consequences if the demanded amounts are not paid.' 

Mark S Fernandes, chairman, shipping and aviation committee, Indian Merchants' Chamber, said, "The Shiv Sena and the MNS are not the competent authority to collect any fee. This is just hooliganism. The law enforcement agencies are well aware of this practice but they are not doing anything. Transporters are being exploited, and trade is suffering."

Authorities say 
Spokesperson for MIAL, Mannik Nangia, concurs. "We have not authorised anyone to collect such fees," he said, adding, "The traders approached us as well. We have brought the matter to the notice of the police."
The traders maintained that the matter has been brought to the notice of the Sahar police station, a stone's throw from the cargo complex, time and again, but they haven't acted.

But Deputy Commissioner of Police Satyanarayan Choudhary, said, "If such practices are happening, we will take the necessary action. If any complaints are made from the airport, the police station will book an FIR in the case, and action will be initiated against the offenders immediately."

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