The parents of a young vegetable vendor, who committed suicide on Monday, has alleged that their son ended his life because of lack of income and harrassment by officials of the anti-encroachment department of Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC).
A resident of Gharkul in Chikhli area, 17-year-old Yogesh Mehtre hanged himself when he was alone at home on Monday evening, said police. Yogesh’s family said he was under tremendous pressure as PCMC officials had taken away his hand-cart, from which he used to sell vegetables.
“Despite civic officials confiscating his hand-cart, as a desperate measure, Yogesh kept selling vegetables by sprawling them on the ground. But civic officials learnt about this and took away his vegetable weighing machine … he cried a lot that day. Selling vegetables has been our only source of income for the past two months,” said his father Vaijanath Mehtre.
Additional Municipal Commissioner of PCMC, Santosh Patil, said, “If a vendor has not taken a pass from us, then his vehicle is confiscated. We can’t allow anybody to operate without permission. If we do that, there will be chaos on the roads during the lockdown.”
Nitin Pawar, general secretary of Bandhkaam Mazdoor Sabha, said, “Of the total 45-50 lakh population of Pune city, daily wage workers comprise 40 per cent… Pune city alone has 16-20 lakh daily wage earners. Pimpri-Chinchwad must have more than 10 lakh daily wage earners. Except for vegetable vendors, life has come to a complete halt for this sector… their source of income has dried up in the last two months…”.
Demanding that minimum wages should be paid to daily wage earners as per the Minimum Wages Act, Pawar said, “A state transport driver gets a minimum of Rs 13,000 as minimum wage. He should get that amount directly in his amount. Similarly, rickshaw drivers, tempo drivers, vegetable vendors, street vendors, hawkers, construction workers, labourers, rag pickers and all those who live a hand-to-mouth existence should get mimimum wage for the lockdown period from the government”.
The Sabha has written letters to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Pune Divisional Commissioner, District Collector and Regional Transport Officer, to draw attention to daily wage earners’ demands.
In its letter to the chief minister, the Sabha stated, “This sector contributes 60 per cent to the national GDP, yet they are neglected”.
Stating that they have approached the CM to seek relief for auto-rickshaw drivers, Baba Kamble, president of Pimpri-Chinchwad Maharashtra Rickshaw Panchayat, said, “We have demanded that each autorickshaw driver should get Rs 10,000… these auto drivers are already reeling under loan burdens and lenders are making their life difficult…”.
He said Pimpri-Chinchwad has nearly 25,000 auto drivers. “A handful of them have taken to selling vegetables, but not all of them are allowed to do so,” Kamble said.
Sharif Shaikh, an autorickshaw driver for 25 years, said, “… I used to earn about Rs 1,000 daily. But after the lockdown, my family was hit badly… I was under a lot of pressure. Then I thought of selling vegetables as it was the only business allowed. Now, I am earning at least Rs 300-Rs 400 per day. My entire family is selling vegetables. We get at least two hours to sell the stuff.”
Avinash Prasad, a tempo driver from Pimpri-Chinchwad, said, “I used to earn Rs 30,000 per month, but in the last two months I have earned nothing… I don’t know why the government is not providing us some relief in the form of cash…”.
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