Updated: August 9, 2021 10:38:32 am
After an autorickshaw driver was allegedly beaten up by loan recovery agents in Kharadi area, and a picture of him sprawled on the ground in a semi-conscious state went viral, autorickshaw drivers have approached Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and demanded strict action. They have particularly demanded action against loan recovery agents, including those of Bajaj Finance Ltd. The company has said it is looking into the matter.
The alleged incident has sparked off protests by autorickshaw drivers and owners. Earlier this week, the driver, identified as Kishore Pawar, was allegedly beaten up by loan recovery agents of Bajaj Finance Ltd, for alleged non-payment on his EMI.
Pawar, who was admitted to a hospital by fellow drivers, has lodged a complaint with Chandannagar police station. Inspector Sunil Jadhav said, “We have registered a non-cognizable offence against the recovery agents. Pawar has suffered some injuries but was discharged from hospital. However, two days back, Pawar complained to us that he was not feeling well and his condition has worsened due to the injury he suffered. We are investigating the matter,” he said, adding that MNS workers met him and demanded strong action in the matter.
Baba Kamble, president of Maharashtra Rickshaw Panchayat, said Pawar was beaten up when he told the recovery agents that he did not have money to repay the loan. “He told them that due to Covid curbs, his earnings had dropped and, therefore, he was not in a position to repay the loan,” Kamble said.
Kamble further said after he conveyed his inability to repay the loan, the agents started beating him up. “All of them pounced on him, beat him up, smashed his mobile phone and threw him to the ground. He lay there for quite a while in a semi-conscious state before being moved to the hospital. As per my information, he has suffered serious injuries,” he said.
Kamble also said they had written to the chief minister as well as to home minister Dilip Walse-Patil, urging them to extend support to autorickshaw drivers hit hard by Covid restrictions. “For the past 14 months, the autorickshaw business has suffered a massive setback due to Covid curbs. Auto drivers have not been able to return their loans to finance companies and banks. If they don’t have money to feed their families, how will they repay their loans? Autorickshaw drivers are facing a problem of survival,” he said.
Kamble said they had urged the CM to ask finance companies to postpone their recovery drive till business returns to normal and Covid curbs were fully relaxed. “Our delegation will also personally meet the chief minister and seek his help,” he said.
Kamble also alleged that finance companies were forcibly taking away vehicles if autorickshaw drivers were unable to repay their loans. “The companies are not even considering the plight of auto drivers due to Covid. They are beating up drivers and forcibly taking away their vehicles. This is illegal and inhuman. The companies should first approach the courts and, only on the directions of the courts, they have a right to seize vehicles for non-payment of loan,” he said.
Inspector Jadhav said, “Finance companies are expected to inform the nearest police station about their action. However, they give us general intimation but not specific intimation.”
In a statement, Bajaj Finance Limited has said, “We value customers and hold them in high esteem. We have a standard policy and process in dealing with customers and do not tolerate any inappropriate conduct or breach of the same, either by employee or agency personnel. We are in the process of ascertaining details of the incident and will work with concerned authorities to take the matter to its appropriate conclusion.”
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