Petty Thefts, Big Deal

Is it the kick that makes one steal petty things like plants, manhole covers, railings, telephone cables, flower pots etc or the money behind it. Syed Asma reports the small thefts that make big differences

Representational Image
Representational Image

Hafeeza, a well dressed, bespectacled lady, who is in her late fifties, and hails from a well-off family, is waiting anxiously outside proctor Kashmir University’s office. Most of the people around look confused by her presence in the waiting lounge. But once they learn the reason of her presence, they could not stop busting into fits of laughter. But a glance at her elderly face makes them correct their expressions.

Hafeeza, who lives in adjacent posh Nigeen area was caught red handed stealing plants from the university garden by a gardener.

“Steal plants?” the proctor asks. “Are you sure?” the proctor questions the gardener. “Yes sir, I saw her and many others taking away young shoots from our garden. And today I caught her red handed,” the gardener explains. Repeating the question, he exchanges a glance with Hafeeza. “Did she steal plants?” he asks while pointing towards Hafeeza. Yes, the gardener replies holding the recovered shoots in his hand.

The lady has no explanation. She dumps herself in the chair blushing, perhaps embarrassed for what she has done.

“We have lot of similar cases registered with us where people usually coming here for morning walks, steals things from the campus. The new trend is to steal young shoots and plants from the campus gardens,” says a former proctor of KU.

“What can you tell an elderly lady who seems to hail from a well-to-do family? It is embarrassing for me. What made her to do so, I fail to understand. These plants just cost a few hundred rupees,” the proctor laughs.

Petty theft like these are embarrassing when the guilty is caught red-handed, the gardener shares while replanting those shoots.

In last few years there has been a rise in such petty thefts where unknown men steal things of low value. But these small items like public park railings, manhole covers, telephone cables, switches and bulbs from the electric poles cause much inconvenience to the public.

Stealing switches and bulbs from electric poles is a norm in housing colonies. Mehraj Ahmed, a resident of Lal Bazar, has an incident to share: “I have spent more on the bulbs of my nearby electric pole than what I spent on the bulbs at my home. It used to vanish every second day.”

It has been a month since Ahmed has purchased a bulb for this pole. They now chose to be in darkness.

Sharing a few incidents Ishtaq Ahmed, an Engineer in the drainage system managed by Srinagar Municipal Committee says “we were compelled to use cemented manhole covers because of repeated complaints about the coverless manholes”.

He explains that the department initially used metallic covers which people used to take away during night and leave the manholes coverless. This resulted in causalities. Because of this numerous oldies, children and animals got injured across city in past many years.

“Cemented covers are a bit heavy to carry but at some places they too were stolen.”

Besides, Ishtaq, an in-charge of SMC’s beautification project shares a few more interesting thefts as well.

A couple of years ago, SMC had started a ‘green and clean city’ project. Under this project they [SMC] decorated the city, mostly Lal Chowk, with flower pots and had placed dust bin at various spots.

Ishtaq shares an anecdote: “I had once gone on-site inspection in Lal Chowk and caught a man loading SMC’s flower pots in his load-carrier. By the time I reached near him, he drove away immediately and left a few pots there. I managed to get his photograph though.”

Ishtaq say they have lodged many FIRs in concerned police stations, sometimes the accused were held and things were recovered but on most of the occasions they were not.

Apart from the flower pots, metallic dustbins were taken too, which compelled the department to get non-metallic bins, which look like plastic bins.

“Despite all odds we try to do our work and replace these things in time to avoid public inconvenience.”

Petty thefts are of different natures but at times have larger impact.

It is for the third time that telecommunication and internet in Pampore town is disrupted. The disruption is not because of bad weather or incompetence of the department but because of a few men who take pleasure in stealing the underground telephone cables.

Nazir Ahmed Dar, SDA Pulwana shares, “It is irksome not only for the locals but is hectic for the staff as well. Every now and then they have to replace the underground telephone lines.”

“The thieves stole 400 pair underground cable at least thrice. It would fetch them good. They take the rubber out, melt the metal present inside and then sell both the things off separately.”

A few months ago in Pampore, he remembers, a 100 pair cable, and in Shopian a 50 pair underground cable was stolen.

Dar says, earlier only over-head cables were stolen which we could detect and manage more easily. The trend of stealing underground cables started after floods. The bund breached at many places from Pampore to Islamabad made these cables naked and visible. “People now come, cut few meters and run away. It is their new occupation now,” says Dar sarcastically.

At a few kilometers from Pampore town, in Pantha chowk, burglars have created fear after they stole more than hundred batteries in Pantha Chowk and its adjoining areas like Zewan and Khanmoah.

They targeted heavy vehicles like tipper, trucks and buses which are usually parked on road sides, the locals share.

The locals say, “Thieves had hired a Chevrolet Tavera for stealing these batteries. The taxi owner was paid Rs 5000 per night for his services.”

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