Public can seek police help against extortion by headload workers, writes V.S. Palaniappan

When people move into Coimbatore from other places or shift their residence within city, they normally encounter the problem of headload workers demanding the right to load and off-load household articles for a hefty wage. A resident shifting his house would have to encounter this problem right from vacating the present house and again while off-loading it from the lorry.

The workers who claim monopoly over their respective areas follow the lorry/tempo carrying household articles and insist that they alone should be employed. At both the ends, the headload workers of the respective areas would insist that only they would do the job and that too for the wages demanded by them. This practice is popularly known as "Attimari" in the local parlance. Citing that they belong to the area and only they should be engaged for off-loading and loading the household articles, these workers would hold the person to ransom by demanding wages running into a few thousands. The person going through the laborious exercise of shifting residence would have to bargain and finally settle down for anywhere between Rs. 1,500 to Rs. 5,000, irrespective of whether the labour involved was worth it or not. Even if the person shifting his/her residence had his own workers accompanying the household articles for off-loading and moving them into the house, the head load workers in the particular area demand right to employment and prevent others from doing the work.

These headload workers owing affiliation to various trade unions and political parties would exert pressure on the resident to complete the shifting in a hurry. In some cases, they had gone to the extent of manhandling the workers and truck crew hired by the resident. In the event of resistance, the headload workers use abusive language to exert pressure on the workers. In the event of the resident being firm and insist that the workers would be of his choice, the head load workers would demand money, may be a few hundred rupees, as compensation for not engaging them. When his attention was drawn towards this problem, the City Police Commissioner, C.K. Gandhirajan, exhorted the people to file complaints and seek the help of the police to tame such workers. The problem persisted only because the residents were reluctant to fight it out. When the law of the land had enough provisions to deal with even intimidation and extortion, the issue of abuse and manhandle could be firmly dealt with, he said.

The public could call up the nearest police station in the event of high-handed behaviour by headload workers. Those found to be repeatedly coming under adverse notice for such would be detained under the Goondas Act, he cautioned.