Matunga copper thieves on hire worked in BMC jackets | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Matunga copper thieves on hire worked in BMC jackets

ByMegha Sood,
Jun 13, 2024 08:58 AM IST

The thieves had instructed daily-wage labourers hired to do the job to tell anyone who inquired that they were doing pre-monsoon repair work for the BMC

MUMBAI: The Matunga police’s investigation into the theft of copper wires from utility cables under a footpath near Kings Circle has revealed that the thieves had instructed daily-wage labourers hired to do the job to tell anyone who inquired that they were doing pre-monsoon repair work sanctioned by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). The labourers even wore BMC jackets and imitated the civic body’s staff, according to municipal commissioner Bhushan Gagrani.

Mumbai, India – June 11, 2024: Worker work on the repair the footpath at Matunga, in Mumbai, India, on Tuesday, June 11, 2024. (Photo by Bhushan Koyande/HT Photo)
Mumbai, India – June 11, 2024: Worker work on the repair the footpath at Matunga, in Mumbai, India, on Tuesday, June 11, 2024. (Photo by Bhushan Koyande/HT Photo)

The thieves paid the labourers around 200 per day to dig and extract copper wires from state-run telco MTNL’s cables. After MTNL lodged a complaint, the police laid a trap on Sunday night and caught the thieves red-handed while they were loading the wires into a hired tempo to take the booty to a godown in Mumbra owned by one of the accused.

The thieves planned to melt the copper wires and sell it, said Matunga police sub-inspector Santosh Mali. The police recovered 184 kg of copper from the Mumbra godown. The price of copper is around 845 per kg.

So far, the police have arrested six people and booked them for theft under section 379 of the Indian Penal Code. The arrested accused were identified as Manish Jain, Nikku Gupta, Naresh Ahire, Mahesh Budamullah, Ashok Suryavanshi and Kailash Jadhav.

The whole operation on the Matunga footpath went on for around a month, with small portions being dug up every day, according to the police. “The digging work with hand tools would start after 11 pm so that the labourers were not asked too many questions and they could get away with the theft,” said Mali. “We are investigating whether the six had conducted similar crimes elsewhere,” he added.

On Tuesday, the BMC started repaving the footpath that was dug up over the last month by the gang of thieves. Gagrani told HT that the priority is to restore the footpath immediately. “We are also in touch with the police. In the FIR, we have asked them to add an additional point of causing nuisance to public property and not just theft.”

BMC statement

In a press statement on Wednesday evening, the BMC said it had filed a complaint at the Matunga police station on May 17 against unknown persons for stealing the cables by digging the footpath on Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marg. The civic body said it followed up on the matter on June 11, sending another letter to the Matunga police station.

The assistant commissioner of F North division has also been instructed to increase the night police patrol on Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marg and other nearby roads. The civic body has also instructed assistant commissioners to keep an eye on such unauthorised digging in their respective divisions and report it to the police immediately if spotted.

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