The Mumbai police have exposed a flourishing underground operation involving theft and illicit sale of manhole covers. A staggering 400 stolen manhole covers have been recovered this year. Scrap dealers in Gujarat have emerged as key players that run this criminal ring.
According to official reports, 53 thefts related to manhole covers in Mumbai have been registered in so far 2023, with some of these stolen lids making their way to manufacturing units in Gujarat. It’s apprehended that a larger syndicate is at work and could be behind a more complex operation.
While drug addicts have been identified as the immediate culprits behind these thefts, it is the scrap dealers who are believed to be masterminding this illegal enterprise. These dealers employ clever tactics to disguise the stolen property as scrap, allowing them to sell the stolen manhole covers covertly to larger dealers in Gujarat.
An investigator told media outlets, “These dealers cunningly present the stolen goods as scrap, obscuring the true nature of their origin.” The investigation has spotlighted the disturbing motivation behind these thefts – drug addicts driven by desperation to fund their narcotics habits and sustain themselves for approximately a week.
The people behind this nefarious activity use auto rickshaws to transport manhole covers, breaking them into convenient pieces. Scrap dealers further break them down into smaller bits before supplying them to manufacturing units.
Those allied to the nexus attributed criminal behaviour to financial struggles.
Scrap dealers have also been implicated in this illegal trade. Abdul Gani Mohammad Nazir Shah, a scrap dealer who knowingly bought stolen manhole covers, provided insights into the mechanics of the operation. He confessed to purchasing the stolen lids from Bunty to make a profit. This involvement of scrap dealers in the illicit market further deepens the complexity of the investigation.
Advocate Ali Kashif Khan feels bail provisions for such acts are too lenient. He is of the view that relevant Indian Penal Code sections could potentially strengthen cases against the accused.
Vivek Phansalkar, Commissioner of Police, told media houses that suspicious activities were monitored. He felt CCTV surveillance, strong vigilance and immediate actions against perpetrators of this crime were imperative to control this menace.