- Taxi driver’s RTI plea reveals that 17 out of 80 illegal loaders
Mumbai, Aug 23: The next time you hand over your luggage to a loader in plain clothes on your way into or out of the airport, think again. That unassuming loader may in fact be a thief or a house-breaker.
These are not our findings, but that of a taxi-driver who had filed a case under the Right to Information Act (RTI) in the Bombay High Court against an illegal loader outfit, Vimantal Hamaal Ekta Sanghatna (VHES). VHES allegedly operates outside the international terminal of the Mumbai airport. The driver, Mohammed Ayub Shaikh, has found that 17 out of the 80 loaders of VHES have criminal records.
These loaders who offer to carry luggage for a fee, now operate in plain clothes outside the airport after being banned by a recent HC order from operating in the airport.
Shaikh, also the president of Mumbai Airport Taxi-Rickshaw Union, had addressed the RTI plea to the assistant police commissioner (western region) in June to find out the number of VHES loaders having criminal records. On
August 4, he received a reply from the ACP’s office stating that there are 17 loaders with criminal cases pending against them. A copy of these cases is available with Mumbai Mirror.
On April 18, Shaikh had filed a PIL stating that VHES loaders dressed in green uniforms were operating without licences at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) for more than five years. The PIL claimed that loaders were responsible for the theft of baggage and looting of passengers at the airport. On April 25, 2007, the division bench of Chief Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice S C Dharmadhikari upheld an earlier HC order that said the loaders not authorised by the Airports Authority of India cannot operate on the airport premises.
To prevent being arrested and fined by the Sahar Police, these loaders have discarded their green uniforms in favour of plain clothes. “When they used to wear uniforms, we would catch them and hand them over to the police. But now, it has become difficult to identify them,” said one of the guards appointed by MIAL at Sahar.
At night, when most international flights land or take off at the Sahar terminal, these loaders can be seen in their plain clothes. This correspondent was at a pre-paid taxi counter at Terminal 2C early on Wednesday morning and spotted a loader who voluntarily offered to carry the luggage trolley of a passenger to the cab. When the correspondent questioned the passengers whether the person handling their luggage was their driver or employee, they said no. The loader in question fled the spot.
A spokesperson for MIAL said, “Our security guards confiscate their passes and hand them over to the police. The rest depends on the police who are responsible for maintaining law and order at the airport,” he says.