PARADIP: As a group of villagers offload chunks of coal from goods trains on Cuttack-Paradip railway line, the dangerously hanging high-tension wires do not bother them. Picking up as much coal as possible is their only target. They have been doing this for years and this is their livelihood.
Sources said villagers, including women and children, residing in villages on both sides of the railway line steal coal from the goods train daily. They come prepared with gunny bags and baskets to carry their loot. Uncovered bogies make the process easy. When the goods train comes to a halt at the outer signal, women and children embark on the train and steal coal with profuse dexterity. At one go, they steal almost 50-100 bags of coal.
They sell the pilfered coal to mafia and brick kiln owners between `1,500 and `1,600 per quintal. The mafia in turn trade the black diamond in the open market and earn income manifold.
Nearly, two to three trucks of coal are pilfered each day leading to loss of crores of rupees to the companies as well as the exchequer.
A villager of Kujang on condition of anonymity said they sell coal to mafia for `50 to `75 per bag for a living. With mafia calling the shots and police preferring to play a mute spectator, the villagers have no choice when it comes to pricing the pilfered coal.
The hazards are many. A villager sustained serious injuries after coming in contact with a live wire while stealing coal on April 6. Sukumar Mahali of Sukhuapada under Paradip police limits was stealing coal from a goods train in prohibited area of Paradip port when he came in contact with a live wire and sustained serious injuries. He was admitted to SCB Medical, Cuttack in a critical condition.
After the incident, Railway Protection Force (RPF), led by Inspector Krushna Chandra Behera and Vigilance Inspector, Khurda, Gagan Kumar Das reached the spot with sniffer dogs to unearth the coal theft in Kujang, Paradip, Rahama and Tirtol areas.
Traffic Manager Damodar Nayak informed that nearly 20 rakes carrying 74,000 million tonnes of coal from Talcher through Paradip port and 12 rakes carrying 44,000 million tonnes of coal are exported through Paradip line daily. Each rake carries about 3,700 tonnes of coal, he added.