Besides dealing with routine administration issues, the Railways authorities are also grappling with the menace of thieves stealing properties of the state-run transporter to make a quick buck.
Railway properties and train items have always been an easy target for rustlers, but the Railway Protection Force (RPF) in Mumbai claims it has succeeded in curbing the menace to a large extent and getting the culprits punished.
Track lead wire, copper, fittings like fans, handles, cushion, signalling tools, steel sheets and clamps are often stolen from trains while parked in stabling or carshed.
Signalling fittings, overhead equipment, fittings kept in workshops and stores regularly end up in the scrap market.
Figures obtained from the RPF in the Central and Western Railway, however, reflect high success rate in recovering stolen parts.
The recovery rate has been in the range of 95 per cent average in the last three years, according to the figures.
They also reflect the number of such cases registered with the RPF under the Railway Property (Unlawful Possession) Act (RPUP Act) has been going down due to increased vigil and deployment of armed personnel along the tracks.
In some cases, railway employees, too, have been found engaged in such unlawful activities.
As per figures obtained from the CR, the Mumbai division of RPF registered 166 cases related to theft of properties worth Rs 11.55 lakh in 2015, 138 instances worth Rs 28.23 lakh in 2016 and 110 cases worth Rs 5.50 lakh in 2017.
While it detected all 166 cases in 2015, recovering items worth Rs 11.08 lakh from thieves, the protection force cracked 136 cases in 2016 and 99 in 2017, getting back properties worth Rs 27.76 lakh and Rs 4.37 lakh, respectively.
“We have dealt with such cases with utmost sincerity and therefore have been able to crack almost all the cases in the recent past.
“In the last three years, we have not only arrested 717 accused, but recovered the stolen properties even from buyers,” Senior Divisional Security Commissioner, RPF (Central Railway) Sachin Bhalode said.
“After we nab the accused, we book them under the RPUP Act and they are prosecuted in the Railways courts,” Bhalode said.
According the figures provided by the Western Railway authorities for the Mumbai division, the RPF registered 114 theft cases worth Rs 7.53 lakh in 2015, 115 worth Rs 7.75 lakh in 2016 and 126 cases worth RS 7.71 lakh in 2017.
The RPF detected 109 cases in 2015, recovering properties worth Rs 4.82 lakh from thieves. As many as 84 cases were cracked in 2016 and 99 in 2017, recovering items worth Rs 6.21 lakh and Rs 3.20 lakh, respectively.
A senior official said, “Better surveillance on the tracks and fixing responsibility on staff concerned have enabled us to cut down such (theft) cases.” Frequent thefts also affect the punctuality of trains in Mumbai, which headquarters both CR and WR.
An RPF official looking into such cases, said, “Thieves often steal track lead wire made of copper from under the tracks which is used in signalling system.
“They steal the metal and sell it in market for a few hundred rupees. But the cost for us is very high as it halts the entire train operation on the affected network.” The number of such theft cases is high on the Central Railway, whose network runs from CSMT to Panvel, CSMT-Kalyan- Karjat-Khopoli and CSMT to Andheri.
The Western Railway, on the other hand, has a single corridor – from Churchgate to Virar.