Three women who allegedly attacked a roadside vegetable vendor in Mira Road for not paying monthly hafta (protection money) were arrested for their reported involvement in the crime on Thursday. The arrest was made ten days later after a FIR was registered.
However, their six accomplices including the prime accused identified as Babu Babar are still absconding. In his statement to the police, the complainant identified as-Ajit Vijay 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.
Irate over Londhe's refusal, the goons mounted a violent assault on him, resulting in a fracture on his left hand and other injuries. The assault took place in broad daylight on January 31, but the FIR was registered on February 6.
Local citizens have demanded revelation of names on behalf of whom the goons were demanding extortion money. 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.
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.