Touts at the domestic airport trick unsuspecting passengers into letting them drop them from their cars to the gate, barely a minute away, by claiming that using their services is mandatory; they charge anywhere between Rs 100 and Rs 500 for the 'service'
It seems various groups of people are bent on making your flying experience in and out of Mumbai a nightmare just so that they can make a quick buck. First, there were the touts at T2, who were making passengers shell out $20 (nearly Rs 1,300) for using a trolley and then there were the auto drivers who were charging Rs 50-Rs 100 extra as an ‘entry fee’ for the international terminal.
This tout was spotted accosting a passenger outside the domestic airport yesterday. Pics/Nimesh Dave
Now, it has emerged that the trolley tout mafia has been operational at the domestic airport as well, albeit in a different avatar. Instead of hiding trolleys, as the touts at T2 did, their counterparts at the domestic airport’s departure section target unsuspecting passengers who get off from cars and tell them that it is mandatory to use their services to get a trolley and a drop from them to the departure gate barely a minute away.
The cost for this ‘service’? Rs 100-Rs 500. When mid-day visited the T1 terminal, we saw these touts making valiant efforts to convince people to shell out money for what is, clearly, an unjustified expense. While many Indian travellers also fell into their trap, the worst hit were foreigners, who did not know better. “These people target passengers according to the vehicle they come to the airport in.
A tout waits for a passenger to disembark
The costlier the four-wheeler, the harder the touts work to convince the passengers. They also have ID cards around their necks, which they use to lend them an air of legitimacy while they try to fool passengers by telling them that it is mandatory for them to take a trolley and their service, for which they charge anywhere between Rs 100 to Rs 500.”
The identity card used by the men to lend them an air of legitimacy
'Illegal, but justified'
The group of 40-odd men, who belong to the Vande Mataram Kaamgaar Sangathan and dress mostly in white, justify what they do by claiming that this is their only source of livelihood. Dinesh Wadia, leader of the Sangathan, said, “We had been working at the airport even before GVK took over the terminals.
In June, mid-day had reported how some airport and airline staff inside the international airport were hiding trolleys and demanding as much as $20 (Rs 1,200) from passengers just to help them get to the exit or to their vehicles
We agree that we are not operating legally inside the airport premises, but the airport officials should accept us and include us in the security staff since we have been working here since the Airport Authority of India handled the city airport.”
On Thursday, around 2.30 pm, an argument broke out between the security firm hired by GVK and the members of the Sangathan. “These men, a few of whom drink and do drugs, have been fooling the passengers. This puts pressure on us. They also hold up passengers while trying to convince them, and that leads to a traffic logjam in the departure area.” An official from the ground staff said, “The men have become an irritant for all of us. If we try to take action against them, they take the help of the local authorities and evade it.”
Speaking to mid-day, Senior Police Inspector of Airport police station, Rajendra Nagbhire, said, “This is the internal matter of GVK and the Sangathan, and GVK should ensure that these men do not operate on the airport premises.
However, crime from these men has increased a lot, as they drink and do drugs on duty. We are working on the issue.” The official spokesperson of MIAL said, “MIAL is committed in its endeavour to provide the best passenger experience.
To eliminate incidents like these, we are actively working with the support from state and central security agencies. We request passengers to immediately inform the nearest security staff member or the airport officer in case anyone approaches them with unsolicited demands at the airport.”