It is a dark Christmas for Smita Pramod Ingle, a 37-year-old software engineer who fell from an auto rickshaw and suffered multiple fractures after robbers pulled her handbag on Wednesday. The woman was travelling to Kalyan in a shared auto when this happened.

Two people on a bike rode toward the auto and suddenly pulled at her handbag. Due to the yank, she fell from the auto. The bikers managed to flee with the bag. Smita was rushed to the nearby Godbole Hospital. She has suffered multiple fractures on her right wrist and arm and hurt her leg.

Unfortunately, Smita’s case, reported in this paper yesterday, is not an isolated one. The modus operandi goes like this: usually a rider and his pillion ride along an auto after spotting a passenger, the bike slows down for a fraction of a second, the pillion pulls a handbag and sometimes the owner is also pulled along with it, as happened to Smita.

Some of those attacked have lost limbs and in tragic, extreme cases their life. Our public facilities and roads must have extensive CCTV coverage. Even when the coverage exists, the cameras are often found malfunctioning, or the quality of footage is very poor. Those who witness such incidents should come forward and speak to the police and tell them everything that could help nail the assailants.

Nobody is blaming the person targeted, yet alertness is key on the roads. If a passenger is alone, one could sit in the middle of the auto, so that it is more difficult to lean over and yank a bag. The bag could be tightly held, on the lap or where it is difficult to pull. Avoid talking on the mobile and other distractions when commuting.

While this is easier said than done, being aware of one’s surroundings and not letting one’s defences down when commuting, may go some way towards safety. An awareness campaign, with a celebrity face, may help too. Lastly, our laws should have exemplary punitive measures for people who may intend only to rob, but also end up killing their victims in the process.