Veteran trade union leader Sharad Rao passed away in Mumbai on Thursday following a prolonged illness. He was 77.
Rao, who had been diagnosed with cancer in 2014, breathed his last this afternoon while he was being taken to NanavatiHospital for a physiotherapy session.
Rao was heading several major trade unions in the city, including the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport union, which runs public transport buses in Mumbai, and Mumbai Autorickshawsmen's Union, which represents majority of auto rickshaw drivers in Mumbai.
He is survived by his wife Shanta, son Shashank and daughter Shilpa.
"He had been diagnosed with stomach cancer in November 2014, following which he underwent a surgery and his oesophagus was extracted. Since then, a tube had been inserted in his stomach and he was kept on a liquid diet," Rao's son Shashank told PTI.
"He had been undergoing regular physiotherapy sessions since then. Today, while he was being taken to NanavatiHospital for a physiotherapy session, his condition turned serious on the way. We immediately admitted him to the casualty ward of that hospital, where doctors declared him dead on arrival," he added.
Rao had taken over the control of trade unions run by veteran socialist leader George Fernandes after the latter moved to national politics.
"George Fernandes spotted the leadership quality of Sharad Rao and on his request he left his job in Hindustan Lever and joined Mumbai labour union as a secretary," A L Quadros, general secretary of Mumbai Taximen's Union, said in his condolence message.
Expressing grief over Rao's demise, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said people from both organised and unorganised sectors have lost a leader, who stood up for their cause without any fear.
"He had a huge impact over the working class. Be it BMC employees, BEST workers, autorickshaw and taxi drivers. He stood up for all when they needed him till his last breath. He will be remembered by all," he said.
Rao's body will be kept in NanavatiHospital till Saturday, after which it will be taken to his residence in the city for family members and associates to pay their last respects.
The last rites will take place the same day.
IMAGE: Rao was a trusted hand of veteran socialist leader George Fernandes and led the BEST union in Mumbai. Photograph: Arun Patil