From toilet mugs to ceiling fans, bed linen to blankets, little that’s of value escapes the attention of thieves on Indian Railways. Such items, together with showers in washrooms, iron grills of windows, even railway tracks, were among stolen property worth Rs 2.97 crore recovered by the Railway Protection Force (RPF) in 2017-18.That was double the value of stolen item recovered by the RPF in the previous year. “We have sometimes noticed passengers stuffing linen in their bag while deboarding the train. Theft of mugs and other iron material is common by drug addicts who later sell them... main concern is theft of track materials, which can lead to accidents,” said an officer of the RPF, empowered to deal with theft under the Railways Act. A Railways spokesperson said, “We conduct drives to catch the offenders because there are times when their deeds have even led to disruptions in train operations.”Items likely to be targeted by thieves are categorised as engineering (railway tracks, fish plates), mechanical (wash basins, mirrors, taps), signalling and telecommunication (overhead cables, solar plates, relay, telephones) and electrical (batteries, electric coach fans, switches) material. Of these, engineering materials are thieves’ favourite target.“As these materials are spread over an expanse of almost 100,000 kilometres, they fall easy prey to thieves,” the RPF officer added on the condition of anonymity.In 2016-17, the RPF arrested 5,458 people in 5,219 cases of theft while recovering property worth Rs 1.58 crore. The number of cases increased to 5,239 in 2017-18.While the RPF has a sanctioned strength of 74,456 personnel, it has a head count of just 67,000 – a majority of whom are posted at police stations. This staff shortage is said to impede the force’s ability to conduct anti-theft drives on a regular basis.