Vashi: More than one lakh head-loaders across Maharashtra went on an indefinite strike Monday, demanding better wages and housing facilities from the state government.
The strike, if it continues, may lead to rise in fruit and vegetable prices and is expected to hit the farm produce market here where the men load and unload the food stocks, officials feared.
"We have made a number of demands from the state government in the last 10 years, but none of them have been attended to," Maharashtra Rajya Mathadi Transport and General Kamgar Union Executive President Shashikant Shinde said.
The Maharashtra Rajya Mathadi Transport and General Kamgar Union controls the loading and unloading of food stocks at all the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees (APMCs) across the state.
"Some of the demands are better wages and housing for our workers. We have also demanded a ban on direct sourcing of vegetables and fruits by corporates, bypassing the APMCs," he said.
Shinde said there were 7,500 low-cost houses constructed by the City and Industrial Development Corporation in Navi Mumbai in 1994. "Only a few of them have been allotted to the Mathadi (head-loaders) union members. The vacant homes have been occupied by non-union workers," said Shinde.
Various AMPC markets across the state are expected to be severely affected due to the strike. "This will lead to a sharp increase in prices of fruits, vegetables and foodgrains," an APMC official said.
"The festive season will also be affected badly if the state government does not intervene and resolve the issue at the earliest," he said.
Nearly 3,000 trucks and tempos load and unload food items at the APMC market in Vashi everyday. "These have increased in the last few days owing to the festive season. But the trading will come to a standstill due to the strike," the official said.