Mumbai: Railway police told to return people's property in a month's time

Updated: Jan 22, 2020, 08:22 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

GRP is visiting complainants to return lost articles lying in police strong-rooms, dating back to 1983

A happy Shantanu Koli, 20, receives his mobile phone that had been stolen in 2017, from Senior PI MA Inamdar, PI Rajendra Yadav and team at the Kurla GRP station. Pics/Vinod Kumar Menon
A happy Shantanu Koli, 20, receives his mobile phone that had been stolen in 2017, from Senior PI MA Inamdar, PI Rajendra Yadav and team at the Kurla GRP station. Pics/Vinod Kumar Menon

Since January 1, Mumbaikars have been surprised by visits from the Government Railway Police, who came to hand over cash, phones or gold that they had lost or was stolen from them, years or in some cases, decades ago. The cops are returning the property from as far back as 1983, which was otherwise kept in strong-rooms of railway police stations for years, after the police commissioner, Railways, instructed that all property in strong-rooms be returned to their owners.

The concept is the brain child of the Commissioner of Police, Railways, Ravindra Sengaonkar, who believes that a case remains undetected unless the stolen property is returned to the original complainant, and there is no reason for the property to stay in police strong rooms for years, even after the case is disposed of by a court," said M A Inamdar, senior police inspector of Kurla railway police. Commissioner Sengaonkar has given the police the target of returning the property from January 1 to February 2.

ASI Gangaram Rane shows mobile phones and other items recovered from the arrested accused over the years, at Kurla GRP station
ASI Gangaram Rane shows mobile phones and other items recovered from the arrested accused over the years, at Kurla GRP station

All 17 GRP stations on the Western, Central and Harbour railways have been given the target of returning stolen/ lost property. mid-day on Tuesday spent a few hours at Kurla railway police station, which has been given the highest target of returning property in 400 cases. In all these cases the court hearing was completed, and in the cases in which the court case is going on, the owners were asked to submit a bond.

Teams to be rewarded
Senior Inspector Inamdar added, "All police station's in charge officers were called in for a meeting with the CP on January 1, wherein he had directed us to return the properties to the complainants within a month's time. It was also revealed that the team working hard would be suitably rewarded."

Ravindra Sengaonkar
Ravindra Sengaonkar

Inspector Rajendra Yadav from Kurla police station said, "On an average we register over 4,000 complaints yearly, mostly under sections 372 (theft) and 392 (robbery), along with other IPC and Railway Act offences. In the year 2019- 4,800 complaints were registered. So far in the calendar year 2020 (January 1 till January 21) — 268 cases have been registered."

On Tuesday as many as 23 claimants visited the Kurla railway police station, holding stamp papers of R100 and copies of their Aadhaar cards. They had been contacted by the GRP, asking them to submit an undertaking stating that they will not dispose of the mobile or property (gold or purse) and will produce the same before the court, whenever asked for.

A major difficulty the police faced while returning property, was in locating the addresses given in FIRs, as many had been replaced with SRA buildings or towers. "In some places, the complainant had moved to a new location, or else the complainant was not alive. Our team would then speak to neighbours, locate the new address and ensure that they handed over the property to the complainant or his/her relatives," explained Inamdar.

"The Kurla railway police have already returned 110 mobile phones worth R11.75 lakh, 47 gold items worth R1.87 lakh (valuation done as per old rate of gold), and cash around R19,000 has been disbursed to eight people. In all total property worth R13.82 lakh has been returned since January 1, 2020 till date. We have already intimated people to come to the police stations. We are confident of meeting the target by February 3, 2020," explained Inamdar.

Commissioner of Police (Railway) Ravindra Sengaonkar said, "I have directed all the 17 police stations in my jurisdiction to hand over the muddemal (property) to the complainants who have been waiting for decades to get it.

'Bridging the gap'
There have been numerous guidelines and directives from courts and procedures directing the return of property to the original complainants. Also cash that has been recovered is returned only through account payee cheques, issued in the name of original complainant and in case the complainant is not traceable, then such stolen item recovered can be sent back to the state government treasury."

Sengaonkar further added, "I have already implemented the eight-hour shift and weekly holiday for the constabulary staff. With the aim of boosting their morale and encouraging them in bridging the gap between the police and public, suitable cash rewards are also announced for good work and detection. My aim is to make the railway police force more accountable and responsible for public safety and comfort."

Happy reunions in the New Year

Supriya Menon, 31
Museum consultant, Mulund, phone stolen in 2005

Supriya Menon is reunited with her mobile phone
Supriya Menon is reunited with her mobile phone

This was my first phone, gifted to me by my parents when I started at Ruia College, Matunga. They worried about me travelling all the way from Mulund to Matunga by train alone, so it was mainly for coordinating with them and for texting friends. I remember being quite excited about having a phone. Once, while getting onto a train at Mulund, someone stole my phone from the bag. I did not realise it till I heard commotion behind me — a plain clothes policeman had been trailing the thief, and caught him red handed. I registered an FIR to complete the formalities. My mum and I were so taken aback by the roughness of the place, that after our first visit, we never went back to retrieve the phone. I was 17. Last week, I got a call at work from my grandma who said the police had come home to return a lost phone. I spoke to GRP Constable Chouthali Chauhan who said she was returning the phone that was stolen in 2005, and I was gobsmacked. She asked me why I hadn't been to collect it — I asked her why she was returning it after 15 years! What will I do with the phone? I honestly don't know. Probably if I find a charger and get a new battery it will probably come back to life!

Shantanu Koli, 20
Student, Wadala, phone stolen in 2017

Shantanu Koli, 20, gets his phone from Senior PI MA Inamdar with PI Rajendra Yadav and team
Shantanu Koli, 20, gets his phone from Senior PI MA Inamdar with PI Rajendra Yadav and team

I had lost all my hope of getting my stolen mobile phone back, it was a gift from my parents after I secured 71 % in HSC, when we used to stay in Ghatkopar (E). It was a Lenovo P2 worth R15,000 that was stolen in June 2017. I was in a crowded train and was not listening to music. When I alighted at Kurla station, I found my mobile was missing. My father guided me to lodge a police FIR. On Monday the Kurla railway police phoned my mother and informed her that they have found my handset. I was thrilled to get my stolen phone back. I was so excited that I forgot to ask the police, from where and how they got my mobile. And surprisingly, the phone was in working condition. I will use ear phones to listen to music every time I travel, so that in case of a theft attempt, the music will stop abruptly and I can react.

Deepak Landge, 28
Pharma firm employee, lives in Ahmedabad, phone lost in 2017

ASI Gangaram Rane hands over Deepak Landge's mobile phone
ASI Gangaram Rane hands over Deepak Landge's mobile phone

ASI Gangaram Rane of Kurla (GRP), was given the task of returning the mobile phone to Deepak, and he went to Badalpur, where he found that Deepak has moved to Ahmedabad. Landge found that Deepak's in-laws stayed in Badlapur and returned the phone to them. The phone was a Sony Ericsson Xperia ARC worth R32,000. Ashok Bahadare, 52, father-in-law of Deepak, applauded the effort taken by ASI Rane, "We were surprised and so was Deepak, on learning that his phone stolen in 2017, was back in 2020. He had lost hope of getting it and we are happy with the police initiative of returning the stolen property to the rightful claimants."

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