Will not tinker with Mathadi Act, help us plug loopholes: Fadnavis
Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis assures mathadis (headloaders) that the Mathadi Act will not be abolished and asks for their support in plugging the loopholes in the Act. He also addresses the demand for Maratha reservation. Fadnavis orders an inquiry into an agreement that mentions payment of extortion money to a mathadi union. He promises to speak to the chief minister and CIDCO to ensure housing for mathadis near the APMC market. Fadnavis also discusses plans for the redevelopment of the APMC market and the empowerment of mathadi youth.
Deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has assured mathadis (headloaders) that the Mathadi Act is here to stay and the government will not tinker with it. He however sought their support to help plug the loopholes in the Act to ensure those misusing it are nabbed and punished. HE also assured them that the government is sensitive to the demand for Maratha reservation, a community to which they belong.
Fadnavis was in Vashi on Monday to attend the 90th anniversary of revered mathadi leader Late Annasaheb Patil. Present for the annual meeting were MLAs Ganesh Naik, Shivendrasingh Raje Bhosale, Manda Mhatre, Pravin Darekar, Prasad Lad, Niranjan Davkhare along with Annasaheb Patil Arthik Magas Vikas Mahamandal (APAMVM) president Narendra Patil, former MLA Shashikant Shinde, BJP Navi Mumbai chief Sandeep Naik, former MP Sanjeeb Naik among others.
Narendra Patil and Shashikant Shinde raised various pending issues of the mathadis with Fadnavis. Shinde expressed fear that the Mathadi Act that was introduced in the 1970s to protect the mathadis, will be abolished.Patil came down heavily on labour minister Suresh Khade stating, “We will not hesitate from taking a morcha to the labour minister. He has not responded to the mathadi demands, forgetting his origins.”
He added, “Anti-social elements are forming mathadi unions for extortion. Mathadi leaders have become contractors out to make money by fraud. Fake mathadis are hurting us badly. However, little action is being taken.”
Stated Patil, “The APMC market here is in a dilapidated state and housing is a major issue for the mathadis. We want it near the market where CIDCO is developing houses.”
Addressing the concerns raised by the mathadi leaders, Fadnavis said, “I assure you that there will not be any tinkering with the Mathadi Act. We will not allow it to be scrapped.”
Stated Fadnavis, “You tell us the amendments that need to be made to stop the exploitation, blackmailing and extortion by fake mathadis using the loopholes in the Act. They get away because of these loopholes every time we take action against them. We don’t want to enforce anything, you study the Act and suggest to us how the menace can be eradicated for good even if it means taking on the leaders you are attached to.”
According to Fadnavis, “Industries coming to the State are scared of extortion by the fake mathadis and hence have moved to other states. If these elements are put away in jail, we will be able to help the real mathadis even more.”
Fadnavis ordered the Navi Mumbai police department to inquire into an agreement which Narendra Patil claimed brazenly mentioned payment of extortion money to a mathadi union, take swift action and report to him.
Addressing the demand for housing close to the APMC market, Fadnavis said, “I will speak to the chief minister and also CIDCO to ensure the mathadis get houses at the development taking place at the truck terminal close to the market. PM Modi too has said that people should get their houses close to their place of residence.”
Informing that the government is seized of the issue of dilapidated APMC market, Fadnavis said, “The plan for the re-development of the market is ready. We will show it to the stakeholders and following discussions take further steps.”
Speaking on empowering mathadi youth, Fadnavis, “I revived APAMVM that had been defunct for years and entrusted Narendra Patil, whose father it is named after, to ensure 1 lakh entrepreneurs are created. He toured the entire State and I am glad that so far 70,000 entrepreneurs have been created with ₹5,000 cr loans being extended to them, with the government bearing the interest cost of ₹507 cr to ensure the youth do not have to bear the burden.”
“Government sensitive to Maratha reservation, making legally strong case”
Declaring that the government is sensitive to the Maratha reservation demand, Fadnavis claimed that he does not take decisions sans ensuring its legal standing.
Said Fadnavis, “Any decision taken should be within the legal framework else the court rejects it and people feel duped. I study everything in detail, legally and then make decisions unlike some people who do it only for effect and applause, something which does not benefit the society.
Informed the deputy CM, “We have formed a committee of retired judges and are also working with the Supreme Court on it. We are committed towards Maratha reservation.”
Mathadi Act, Amendments and opposition to it
The Maharashtra Mathadi, Hamal and other Manual Workers (Regulation of Employment and Welfare) Act, 1969 seeks to regulate the employment of unprotected manual workers to ensure better terms and conditions for them.
There are 34 boards formed in the State under the Act for regulating employment and welfare of the mathadis who are employed primarily in the wholesale agriculture produce markets and also in some other industrial units.
The Act came into being following the efforts of much revered mathadi leader Late MLC Annasaheb Patil. He is credited with uniting the unorganised workers under the umbrella of Maharashtra Rajya Mathadi Transport and General Kamgar Union (MRMTGKU). It is currently led by his son, Narendra Patil, who is its general secretary.
The state government introduced a bill in the house in August this year which sought amendments in the Act. The amendments were planned following complaints of extortion by some mathadi unions. They sought to change the definition of mathadis and also to keep some businesses out of the purview of Mathadi Act.
The bill was vehemently opposed by the Mathadi leaders who claimed the Act provisions were being diluted and would put a question mark over the very existence of the mathadis and their livelihood. Fadnavis then announced the formation of a special committee that included Mathadi leaders to look into the changes.
Political significance of Mathadis
The Mathadis, who belong to the Maratha community and hail from Satara have traditionally been staunch Sharad Pawar supporters and hence an NCP vote bank.
Over the past few years, however, there seems to have been a shift in loyalties with Annasaheb Patil’s son Narendra Patil becoming a staunch Devendra Fadnavis loyalist. Fadnavis rewarded him with the post of chairman of Annasaheb Patil Arthik Magas Vikas Mahamandal (APAMVM), to help provide loans to youths in the State to start their business.
The difference has been visible at the annual mathadi meet on Annasaheb Patil’s anniversary. While earlier Sharad Pawar would lead NCP leaders in attending the meet, it has been Fadnavis for the past few years.
Mathadi leader Shashikant Shinde, a Pawar loyalist, seems to have taken a backseat and in fact praised Fadnavis for his support to the Mathadi cause at the meeting on Monday.
The mathadis have been actively participating in the demand for Maratha reservation.