Trains: Indians have an annoying tendency to pick up unused condiments from restaurants and often nick stuff from public places. Railways has emerged as another popular hunting ground for passengers to steal stuff.
From toilet mugs to ceiling fans, bed linens to pillows and pillow covers, nothing has escaped the eye of passengers when it comes to casually stuff all these in their bags an carry it home.
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.
According to the numbers released by Western Railways, in the last fiscal alone, 1.95 lakh towels were stolen from its long-distance trains, besides 81,736 bedsheets, 55,573 pillow covers, 5,038 pillows, and 7,043 blankets.
Additionally, 200 mugs that are chained to the wall in train toilets, around 1,000 taps and over 300 flush pipes are stolen each year.
According to Sunil Udasi, CPRO Central Railway, between April to September 2018, 79,350 hand towel, 27,545 bedsheets, 21,050, pillow covers, 2,150 pillows and 2,065 blankets were stolen, which were worth Rs. 62 lakh approximately, says a report by Mumbai Mirror.
On Monday, a Ratlam resident who boarded a long-distance train from Bandra Terminus ended up becoming the face of such pettiness when he was arrested for stealing three blankets, six bedsheets, and three pillows.
Ratlam resident Shabbir Rotiwala was travelling in an AC coach (B-5) and was spotted by the attendants hastily stuffing the bed linens in his bag before alighting at Ratlam Station, where he was arrested.
The Indian Railways has incurred a loss of around Rs 4,000 crore over the last three fiscals, and thefts on trains contribute to the railways bleeding cash. The coach attendants have to make good the cost of stolen linen and pillows, but washroom fittings and other equipment are a loss to the railways, which is significant.
For instance, the luxurious Tejas Express, which runs between Mumbai and Goa, had Jaguar fittings in its toilets, but most were stolen and replaced with cheaper ones. Mumbai Mirror was the first to report that at least a dozen headphones on board the Tejas Express were stolen and several LED screens were damaged on its maiden run itself in May last year.
This, on a train whose cheapest ticket costs Rs 1,185.
The Western Railway sources said railway property worth Rs 2.5 crore was stolen last fiscal, and we are not even considering the properties damaged. “The cost of each bedsheet is Rs 132, while a towel costs Rs 22 and a pillow Rs 25. It is the coach attendants’ responsibility to ensure every item is returned by the passengers,” a railway source said.
“Trains that are launched now have facilities such as sensor-driven taps and CCTV cameras, and these fittings don’t even last the trains’ maiden journeys. The railways then replace them with cheaper ones,” the source said.