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From drain covers to taps, Delhi’s thieves want it all

Last October, a newly built water fountain near the Ambedkar Bhawan in Jhandewalan was all set to be inaugurated.

delhi Updated: Feb 10, 2019 08:04 IST
Prawesh Lama
Prawesh Lama
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Ambedkar Bhawan,Jhandewalan,India news
Image for representation.(File photo)

Last October, a newly built water fountain near the Ambedkar Bhawan in Jhandewalan was all set to be inaugurated. There was a function planned, guests were on their way. But, hours before the function, officials realised the fountain wasn’t working — someone had stolen all 40 water nozzles.

From signage to iron railings, drain covers to telephone cables and taps in public restrooms — Delhi’s thieves often make away with the most common items around us that disrupt life, cause chaos, and lead to embarrassment for authorities in the national capital.

According to the civic agency records, of the 6,000 signboards in the NDMC area, at least 100 were stolen last year. “The signboards are made of stainless steel — they will hardly fetch about Rs 50 or Rs 100 in the market, but they are stolen anyway. On the other hand, imagine the problem a person has to face if there are no signboards at the roundabouts,” said a New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) officer who asked not to be named.

Road-owning agencies say that they often do not report every theft to the police because it is a common occurrence, and the stolen items are not very costly. For 20 years until 2018, the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi’s statue at Mother Teresa Crescent in New Delhi remained without spectacles because they kept getting stolen.

“An iron tap is another common item stolen by such thieves. They are fitted in public toilets and bathrooms run by the civic agencies. Imagine the problem when taps are stolen from public washrooms — how can one expect the washrooms to remain clean?,” said a civic agency officer on condition of anonymity.

A senior police officer said tap thefts are also common in bungalows in the New Delhi area. One such case, for instance, happened on January 24 at a house in Zakir Hussain Marg near India Gate, officials said.

“We have arrested vagabonds for stealing taps from the bungalows of parliamentarians. They sell it for less than hundred bucks and buy smack (heroin),” the officer said.

This December, the Delhi traffic police regularly received reports of traffic congestion at Okhla. There were cases of two-wheeler riders falling off their motorcycles and scooters at the underpass connecting Sarita Vihar and Okhla. When the police inspected the site, they realised that the iron bars that covered a drain passing under the road were missing. Drivers abruptly stopped their vehicles at the uncovered drain, leading to car pile-ups, accidents, and traffic chaos during the morning and evening rush hours. In 2018 alone, iron bars were stolen seven times. Tired of the thefts, Delhi Development Authority officials have covered the drain with stone blocks.

Cables and wires, especially ones used by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, are also a preferred item, according to the police. Last year, the Magenta Line between Botanical Garden and Kalkaji Mandir section developed technical snags because the cables were stolen at least 20 times.

The total cost of the stolen cables was over Rs 2 crore.

“The cables are of very high quality and made of copper. There is a thriving second-hand market. We have arrested professional thieves behind the theft of such cables. It is better than the telephone line cables and sells for about Rs 100 per kilogram,” a police officer said, adding that telephone cable theft too was very common until four years ago.

“In 2015, the telephone lines of many embassies and intelligence bureau offices in New Delhi were down because the telephone cables were stolen,” he said.

First Published: Feb 10, 2019 07:30 IST