Thieves delay infra projects

Published: Apr 07, 2011, 06:18 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav

Gang of robbers regularly strike construction sites in Chembur, make off with iron rods & other raw material

Gang of robbers regularly strike construction sites in Chembur, make off with iron rods & other raw material

AS darkness envelops the city and its denizens curl up in blissful sleep, one woman and her dreaded gang of robbers take to the streets.

Their trained eyes are alert, always on the lookout for vulnerable places from which each of them will derive their next income.

The monorail project is among those affected by the robberies.

But, it's not gold they are after. The gang is content robbing large chunks of construction material from the various infrastructure projects that dot the city's landscape.

And, thus, is born the legend of Rani Bai the hitherto hidden force, according to contractors, behind the delays plaguing these projects.

"We have been facing the problem of theft and robbery at our construction sites in Chembur for close to two years now.

A woman, who goes by the name of Rani, and her gang, come to the sites with trucks to steal iron raw materials," said SK Pandey, spokesperson of Madhucon, which is carrying out construction of the Eastern Freeway in the Chembur area.

C Raman, who is the administration in-charge at Madhucon, corroborated Pandey's statement. "A rough calculation done by me revealed that the robbers took away as much as 80-85 tonnes of iron rods, used to prepare the skeletons of pillars, in the last two years from our site alone.

They also robbed us of nearly 3,000 sq m of shuttering plates, which are used to mould the cement-concrete mixture into pillars or bridges. The plates are removed when the mixture dries up and hardens."

A security guard from the site said, on condition of anonymity, that the gang is very dangerous and threatened him of dire consequences if he or his employers complained to the police.

"Taking serious note of the threat, the company has increased security presence around the sites and given us rifles to protect the construction materials," he said.

The Monorail project, too, has been heavily affected by these robberies.

"The Rani Bai gang has stolen tonnes of iron rods from our construction site as well. We have incurred losses of nearly Rs 80 lakh because of the robberies and the projects get delayed as replenishing the stock takes time.

A lot of the material stolen was specially made for this project and getting it again is not an easy task," said a senior official from a Monorail site.

How they work

A resident from Mysore Colony in Chembur explained the modus operandi of the gang.

"The gang usually strikes at night, with Rani Bai arriving at the site in a rickshaw and her men arriving in a truck.

They ask people present at the spot to go away and even offer a couple of thousand rupees to them as incentive. People choosing to stay despite that are thrashed.

The security guards run away in fear looking at the sheer number of them. The gang has also been stealing iron manhole covers," he said.

When MiD DAY tried to speak to officials from the RCF police station, no one was willing to come on record.

"The activity has been stopped now and no cases or incidents have occurred in the last couple of months," said a police officer, on condition of anonymity.

Projects Delayed
The following projects are expected to be delayed by two to four months.

The project has been divided into two phases. Phase I is from Chembur to Wadala and the other one is from Wadala to Jacob Circle. This is India's first monorail project and is estimated to cost
Rs 2,450 crore.

Eastern Freeway
The 22-km corridor will be completed in three phases.  The first 12-km stretch is from Fort to Anik depot, the second 5-km  phase is from Anik to Panjarpol, and the third 2.5- km stretch is from Panjarpol to Mankhurd and then to Ghatkopar on the Eastern Express Highway. The estimated cost of the project is R531 crore.

The Other Side
Senior officials from the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority said they could not comment on the issue as it is the contractors' job to keep a check on what is happening at their site.

85 tonnes
Amount of material that has been stolen from the sites in the last two years

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