Coronavirus outbreak: It is a matter of life and death, say trapped Matheran locals

Updated: Apr 09, 2020, 21:44 IST | Rajendra B Aklekar | Mumbai

Say locals of Matheran, appeal to the government to give them at least one tempo, as transporting essential items on horseback is costing them a fortune

Matheran residents are fully dependent on horses to transport essential goods
Matheran residents are fully dependent on horses to transport essential goods

Just one tempo will save us. It is a matter of life and death!" appealed the residents of Matheran, who are 'trapped' on the hill during the lockdown, which has forced them to depend solely on horses to transport essential commodities and it's costing them a fortune.

No motorised vehicle is allowed in Matheran as it is an eco-sensitive zone, and following the lockdown, trains were also shut, and residents are now unable to use handcarts as the labourers have gone away. They have appealed to the Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar to intervene.
"The Rickshaw Sanghatana is ready to monitor the tempo service to ensure it is not misused at any level," Shakil Patel, president of the Shramik Rickshaw Chalak Malak Sanghatana said in the letter to Javadekar.

"When the lockdown began, we were using handcarts and horses to transport goods. But, as days passed, the cart-pullers went away. Now, for transporting LPG, we have to pay a charge of R100 per cylinder," Sunil Shinde, a local, said.

"Keeping in view the matter of life and death of citizens and the urgency of the matter, we request the authorities to allow at least one tempo in the town," Shinde added.

For 6,500 residents, the hill station is dependent on 460 horses who need to be fed as well.

Local Rickshaw Sanghatana had filed a petition to introduce e-rickshaws and is even ready to monitor the movement of tempos. The Matheran Municipal Council had also asked the Raigad district collector to allow tempos to ferry essential goods until the lockdown is over, but the permission was denied since the matter was sub-judice.

Manoj Khedkar, former president of the Matheran Municipal Council, told mid-day, "Tempos should only be allowed as an emergency measure during the lockdown. It will solve a lot of issues."

While district authorities remained unavailable for a comment, environmentalists said there could be a way out. Architect and senior environmentalist Sarang Vaman Yadwadkar said if it was a question of survival, they should just inform the court and go ahead. This can also be sorted out at Municipal level.

"I think, the people should come together, take local environmentalists into confidence and go ahead and inform the court as a precaution. This should be strictly on temporary basis. They should file an affidavit to that effect in the court. It is important to note that if the matter is sub-judice, even the minister will have no authority to interfere in it?" he said.

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