Veteran trade union leader Sharad Rao passed away Thursday evening. Rao was on his way to Nanavati Hospital, Vile Parle, when he breathed his last, family members confirmed, adding that it was a natural death. He was 78.
“He had a blood pressure problem for which we were taking him to the Nanavati hospital. On the way, he died a natural death. He was treated for stomach ulcer last year,” said a family member.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis expressed his condolences while many other political party leaders acknowledged his role in mobilising the work force in both the organised and unorganised sectors.
Rao, who was associated with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), headed several unions including the Hind Mazdoor Sabha, the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply Trust (BEST) Workers’ Union and the Municipal Mazdoor Union. He also remained the leader of Mumbai Autorickshawsmen’s union, the largest rickshaw union in the city till he handed over the baton to his son Shashank Rao.
Several times he had brought the city to a halt through his agitations.
“The demise of Sharad Rao is a great loss to the trade unions of the country and more specifically the working class of Mumbai. While working in the Mumbai labour union he fought for the rights of the workers in various unorganised sectors such as hawkers, the cloth market and hotel workers. He also led the historic struggle of the pavement dwellers numbering more than two lakh on the issue of the right for shelter under the banner of Hind Mazdoor Panchayat (HMKP),” said A L Quadros, General Secretary Mumbai Taxi men’s union.
“I had the opportunity to work with him in 1967 when we participated in various workers’ movements such as the historic strike in BEST and of the Municipal Corporation and various other strikes. He led more than ten lakh workers throughout the country. His untimely death has created a huge vacuum in the workers’ movement and our union pays respect to him” he added.
“Sharad Rao was a very influential leader. His efficiency of work while working for the BEST union is still remembered. While managing to place his views, he also maintained cordial relations with everybody. We have lost a great leader,” said Mohan Mithbavkar, BEST chairperson.