MNS man uses Uttarakhand tragedy to extort hoteliers

They say charity begins at home. But for some, it begins in the homes of others -- or rather their restaurants. A group of hoteliers recently lodged a police complaint against an aspiring leader of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), alleging that he tried to cash in on the Uttarakhand tragedy by using it as an excuse to fill his own coffers. 

Forced charity: MNS worker Dattatray Mane told the complainants that he was sending six trucks to Uttarakhand loaded with grocery, clothes and cash for those affected by the floods. He said the cost for filling each truck was Rs 60,000 and demanded Rs 5,000 per head. When they offered to pay Rs 1,000 each, he threatened them. File pic

Last week, hoteliers, bar owners and shopkeepers approached Parksite police station in Vikhroli, complaining that MNS member Dattatray Mane tried to extort money from them, citing relief funds for persons affected in the Uttarakhand tragedy. Hoteliers have also sent a copy of the complaint to the commissioner of police and deputy commissioner of police (DCP) through their organisation Aahar.

“The owners have complained against Mane. I forwarded their complaints to our head office, which has forwarded the complaint to the commissioner of police and the zonal DCP,” said Sunil Patil, president of Aahar between Ghatkopar and Mulund.

Hoteliers alleged that on July 6, Mane appeared to drop his visiting cards in hotels, bars and grocery shops.

“Mane said that he was sending six trucks to Uttarakhand loaded with grocery, clothes and cash. He said the cost for filling each truck was Rs 60,000. He demanded Rs 5,000 per head,” said a bar owner.

Mane, who runs an NGO Saidisha Pratishthan, claimed he is president of Sahakar Sena, a wing of MNS. He threatened the hoteliers of dire consequences if they didn’t cough up the amount.

“We were ready to pay Rs 1,001 to the relief fund, but Mane refused, saying that he would not accept anything less than Rs 5,000,” said a grocery shop owner. 

‘Put it on my tab’
Mane entered a restaurant with 10 of his men, who asked for food and drinks and ran up a bill of Rs 3,940. Mane then refused to pay, saying that the bill would be ‘adjusted’ in the Uttarakhand relief fund. 

“I threatened to call the police helpline 100, but Mane did not budge. However, by the time the police reached the spot, Mane had fled,” said the restaurant owner.

Fed up with Mane’s attitude, several hoteliers approached Parksite police station. They also complained to MNS leader Rajendra Navghare.

“The hoteliers approached me and complained against Mane. I spoke to Mane. He claimed that he was collecting funds for his NGO, and not the MNS party,” said Navghare.

“I had received a complaint. The matter was settled as Mane paid the bill on the same day,” said SS Sakpal, senior inspector, Parksite police station.

The Other Side
Mane said, “I have never done any wrong. I have worked with Baba Amte and Anna Hazare. I have done a lot of social work through my NGO. Since I have joined MNS, a few competitors are trying to defame me. I am aware about the police complaint. I will reply to them in my own way. The police had called me. I paid the bill,” said Mane. 

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