Azad Hawkers’ Union has called for a strike on January 24 to protest against the injustice meted out to them by the police and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). The union, which has a strength of more than 1.25 lakh hawkers in the city, claimed that the police department and the BMC together extort almost Rs1,000 crore from hawkers to allow them to do business. “More than 50,000 hawkers will take to the streets on Thursday demanding regularising of those hawkers who are doing business on streets since 1988 and their names are mentioned in the survey carried out by Tata-Yuva on behalf of the BMC,” said Dayashankar Singh, president of the union. Out of the over 4 lakh hawkers in the city, there are only 26,000 licenced ones. Singh said the hawkers were being charged daily fees and given receipts from 1988 to 1998. The BMC also gave them licences during this period but later it stopped taking licence fees. “We will demand that such hawkers, who are more than 1 lakh, be regularised and be accommodated in hawking zones,” said the hawkers’ union leader. Singh added that this would only increase the BMC’s revenue legally than the corrupt civic officials and police pocketing it as bribes. These bribes run into hundreds of crore. The sudden action against hawkers is a plot, said the union.“With the FDI policy accepted by the country, the hawkers who run a parallel economy have become an eyesore for the government. Several multinational companies want to invest in retail outlets of daily essentials but they want hawkers out,” said Singh, blaming the BMC, state government and the Centre for not implementing National Hawkers’ Policy in Mumbai. “We have filed a contempt petition against the government in the Supreme Court but the matter is pending for a year and the hearing adjourned several times,” said Singh.