Six days after they allegedly attacked a roadside vegetable vendor in Mira Road for not paying them monthly hafta (protection money), nine people were booked by the Naya Nagar police under the relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code for assault and putting a person in fear of injury in order to commit extortion. However, none of them have been arrested so far.
The incident has not only exposed the thriving multi crore hafta racket which flourishes in the twin-city, but also the inaction and failure of the police and the Mira Bhayandar Municipal Corporation (MBMC) towards taking steps to weed out the menace.
In his statement to the police, the complainant identified as Ajit Londhe (31) said that the goons approached his vegetable cart near the Mira Road railway station with a demand of Rs. 4,000 per month as hafta if he wanted to continue vending on that spot.
When Londhe refused the goons mounted a violent assault on him, resulting in a fracture on his left hand and other injuries. The assault took place on January 31 but the FIR was registered on February 6.
It is learnt that in many areas, goons have been designated to collect hafta from hawkers and roadside stalls, as the collection runs into lakhs of rupees every month.
The pick-and choose policy of the civic administration to target particular hawkers who do not pay hafta is also under the scanner. In some markets, the money is paid on a weekly basis, while in others it is a daily bribe.