It was a busy year for the Railway Protection Force, which arrested over 11 lakh people across the country for stealing components from railway tracks and infrastructure in 2016. Maharashtra led in the number of arrests at 2.23 lakh, followed by UP with 1.22 lakh nabs.
RPF personnel caught these people stealing pandrol clips, fishplates, bolts, overhead wires, rails, bathroom fittings in train coaches, and even tubelights, fan, hand towels and blankets from AC coaches. Madhya Pradesh saw 98,594 arrests, while Tamil Nadu 81,408 and Gujarat 77,047, rounding up the top five states with this dubious distinction.
According to railway officials, thieves target premium-quality iron and copper used in railway tracks, pandrol clips, high-tension overhead wires, signal cables apart from accessories on train coaches and railway stations.
Gaurav Bansal, chief public relation officer of North Central Railway zone, which covers half of UP railway traffic, said, "In eastern UP, miscreants throw iron chains on 25,000-volt overhead wires to disrupt power supply on the tracks and steal 99.9 % pure copper overhead wires, while in the rest of the state, people, especially drug addicts, steal pandrol clips or saw off parts of the track to sell in the grey market. A one-metre slice of railway track of 60 kg with 90 tonnes' endurance capacity can provide sufficient money to buy contraband."
Railway officials said a metre-long rail track can fetch over Rs 1,000 in the scrap market. Bansal added, "Some thieves take mugs, mirrors, metal water taps from train coach lavatories, while some steal hand towels, blankets and bulbs from AC coaches. Recently, Tejas Express and Mahamana Express reported lavatory taps, hand shower heads and carpets missing after the trains completed their maiden journeys. "
Due to this menace, railways have now introduced fibre brake blocks for train wheels, as thieves were taking metal brake blocks too.
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