Cops, Excise officials, Customs inspectors, Income Tax collectors — men who send shivers down the spine of any corrupt citizen. But now, the shoe is on the other foot. A cluster of nearly 70 buildings at Antop Hill accommodates at least 3,000 employees of various government agencies and their families. And now, our guardians themselves appear vulnerable as they live in a precarious situation, courtesy a string of daring robberies.
Speaking to MiD DAY, several government officers from various agencies shared their trauma. “On July 19 the burglars broke the lock of my main door, took my laptop and Rs 11,500 in broad daylight. I was in the office, and no one was at home. I have called my cousin to take care of my residence as the department will not pay me to sit at home,” said Excise inspector Girish Sundriyal, who stays at building number 52 of CGS quarters.
The story of building number 2 resident Rananjay Shekhar Pandey — an inspector with Service Tax department — is not too different. “The theft happened during the day on July 16, when I was in office. They took Rs 20,000 in cash, which I had withdrawn to hand over to someone and had kept inside a bag at my residence. Luckily, I had carried my laptop and digital camera to office that day or the burglars would have taken them too,” Pandey told MiD DAY.
No keys? No problem
On July 3 the burglars swiped the laptop of Income Tax inspector Rakesh Sharma, who is a resident of building number 58. Sharma was on leave and had given the keys to a colleague, who was at his office when the break-in happened.
Building number 57 resident Prashant Sardesai is an inspector with Customs and his wife is with Mumbai police. That made no difference to the thieves. They stole Rs 8,000 in cash in their absence on February 11. On the same day, the crooks also pilfered the entire electric wiring from Customs inspector Shiv Shanker Gyan’s house. When this MiD DAY reporter probed, a resident replied, “If the electric wiring is stolen, our department allocates Rs 70,000 to the contractor to fix the wiring for that house.”
The list of aggrieved is huge and cannot be accrued in this small article. Suffice to say that since January this year, over three-dozen cases of theft — about half a dozen of them in July — from the area have been reported to Antop Hill police station. Residents say cops haven’t done much to turn things around.
“We ensure that a complaint is filed in every case, so that police can crack down on the nexus involved. But the number of thefts — instead of coming down — has increased in the last few months. Six such cases have been reported in July itself. The police are responsible for failing to restrain this unhappy trend, but we also feel that CPWD, which is the custodian of these buildings, is equally to blame, as the buildings are in a complete mess and require immediate maintenance. But this issue has been ignored despite repeated requests,” said Vineet Chaturvedi, Inspector with Service Tax and a resident of building no 52.
“The panic is palpable and anyone who is living in this society now ensures that someone is there to take care of the house in his absence. Many have called in relatives and friends to perform as caretakers,” Chaturvedi further added. Also, there have been many cases where the burglars have stolen articles like laptops and mobile phones kept for charging in the drawing room, while the homeowner was present in one of the other rooms of a 2-3BHK flat.
Who is responsible for these burglaries?
Central Public Works Department (CPWD), which is the custodian of this colony, maintained that it is not responsible for the problem in any way.
“Whenever we get complaints related to repairing of any house we ensure that the work is done in the stipulated time period. It is true that cases of thefts in the colony are being reported very frequently, but this is due to the slums situated in close proximity. The residents of slums trespass in the colony very frequently. We have brought the matter to the notice of the police time and again and we think stopping such crimes is their duty,” said CPWD junior engineer Hemant Kumar, in-charge of CGS colony. Kumar, however, did not say why the staff quarters are not maintained properly.
When contacted, DCP (Zone IV), K G Patil said, “Vigilance has been increased in the area in the recent past. Still, I am going to take up the issue with the local police station and will see what steps have been taken to rein in the thefts. If more vigilance is required it will be taken care off on priority basis.”