BHUBANESWAR / SAMBALPUR: Odisha Police is hot on trail of an organised gang that has been hijacking consignments of aluminium-laden trucks on their way to Kolkata from Sambalpur and Jharsuguda districts.
While drivers and truck staff have gone missing, some of them were found dead. In the past year, at least eight to 10 such robberies and abductions have taken place but not all of them have come to the fore because in many instances, the complaints were not even entertained by police.
In last 10 days alone, three such cases have been reported. Sources said Director-General of Police (DGP) Sanjeev Marik has asked the Crime Branch (CB) to coordinate in the investigation to trail the gang.
The latest case that came to the fore was in Cuttack district. In Athagarh, the cleaner of an aluminium ingot carrying truck was found murdered in a forest while the driver, with his throat slit, was spotted at a cashew plantation in Khuntuni on Saturday last. The consignment had been robbed.
About five days prior to the Cuttack incident, Balasore’s Jaleswar police prevented an attempt to waylay another aluminium ingot-laden truck, which had originated from Hirakud and was on its way to Kolkata. The truck was intercepted by a gang of eight persons, which seriously injured the driver and cleaner near Keonjhar’s Kanjipani Ghat. However, the cleaner managed to inform the truck owner and after police were intimated, the truck could be tracked. The truck driver was found murdered in Mayurbhanj’s Jashipur today.
“The rate at which these cases have recurred in the last one year indicates that an organised racket is working behind the abductions and robbery because huge money is at stake, but we are on job,” the DGP said.
The aluminium ingots consignment that originates from factories in Hirakud as well as Jharsuguda are valued at about `20 lakh to `25 lakh, while the vehicles cost another `20 lakh. In most cases, the consignments along with the vehicles have been robbed in entirety. The State Truck Owners’ Association alleged that many of their drivers and other staff have gone missing only to return weeks later. In most cases, they are badly injured.
What has added to the worry of police is the fact that the robberies and abductions have taken place in multiple districts including Sambalpur, Angul, Dhenkanal and Cuttack. The 80-km stretch from Motunga to Manguli has been found to be vulnerable to such incidents. Besides, in many cases, the registration of FIRs takes time and tracking of the cases become difficult.
However, police believe that the gang has put in place a surveillance mechanism to track the consignments from the point of loading and along the entire route to Kolkata. By the time a case is registered, they not only dispose of the aluminium ingots, but the vehicles too.
When contacted, Additional Director-General of Police, Crime Branch, Bijay Kumar Sharma said a meeting of the SPs and Investigating Officers have already been held.
“We have taken the matter very seriously and SPs have been asked to augment vigilance along the vulnerable stretches to prevent any recurrence. We are hopeful of a breakthrough soon,” he told this paper.