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The theft of manhole cover is rampant this monsoon with police registering over 200 FIRs out of 239 complaints filed by the 24 administrative ward offices in the city. This has added to the woes of BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) officials as they fear this may result in people falling into open manholes while navigating waterlogged streets.
As per data collated by HT, G North ward has reported the highest number of missing manhole lids - 114 incidents of which 34 FIRs have been registered since June. The thefts were recorded on L J road, Senapati Bapat Marg, A K Vaidya Marg, and near St Michael School in Mahim. On the other hand, South Mumbai wards A, B, C and D have recorded the lowest number of thefts.
Drug peddlers and drug addicts are more inclined to steal because they get a good price for it, said Prashant Sapkale, assistant commissioner, G North ward. “This is an organised crime and it is carried out using a small vehicle like autorickshaw, or van.”
Sapkale said the gangs operate between 1am and 4am and pull the manhole cover with the help of a magnet.
A manhole cover, which is made of iron cast, is priced anywhere between ₹ 2,500 and ₹ 10,000.
Ajitkumar Ambi, assistant commissioner, S ward, said manhole covers are primarily stolen in Powai at night and the ward office has lodged eight police complaints.
“The drug addicts sell it to scrap dealers. The police should step up night patrolling since CCTV cameras alone do not work. They rip off the cameras as they know CCTV footage will land them in trouble,” he said.
The complaints are registered mostly against unknown persons and rarely are they nabbed by the police, Ambi said. “Nabbing them becomes an exercise in futility.”
Manish Valanju, assistant commissioner, K East ward, said 15 FIRs have been registered so far. “They are mostly vagrants. They sell it at a per-kg rate to scrap dealers. Each cover weighs 70-80 kg.”
Vishwas Mote, assistant commissioner, M West ward, said he had filed 10 complaints and the incidents were mainly recorded on Central Road and RC Marg in Chembur.
Activist Mustaq Ansari, however, alleged that the thieves work in tandem with scrap dealers and contractors.
“Civic officials told us that the police did not provide CCTV footage. If there is a safety grill below the manhole lid, then it averts accidents. But we know the covers go back to the contractors. We have even seen taxi and autorickshaw drivers stealing lids,” Ansari said.
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