CHENNAI: National Highways in Karnataka are emerging as pilferage zones for Tamil Nadu-bound trucks, especially those carrying FMCG.
Lorry associations have said that the number of theft incidents on tollways in the neighbouring State is on the rise and that Rs 40-50 crore was lost due to the menace this year.
Criminals are targeting dhabas and unnotified parking areas where drivers halt their trucks to take rest.
In some cases, thieves jump into heavily loaded trucks trucks when they slow down at some points on the tollways and make away with goods, leaving truckers clueless about the theft. NH13 is prone to massive pilferage of Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) such as cosmetics and chocolates, besides cloth materials and drugs, causing losses to the tune of over Rs 40 crore.
According to Nallathambi, president of the State Lorry Owners’ Federation, theft cases in Karnataka involving Tamil Nadu trucks have spiralled this year when compared with the corresponding period of 2014.
“FIRs have been registered in about 80-90 cases this year. But there have been no FIRs in 400 cases,” he said.
“The collective loss would range anywhere between Rs 40 crore and Rs 50 crore. Just a week ago, toothpaste worth of around Rs 10 lakh and chocolates worth Rs 3.5 lakhs went missing from some trucks,” he added.
“What puzzles us is that the thiefs know the exact location of a particular product placed in the midst of other goods in the trucks,” he added.
While thieves had targeted copper plates ferried from Tamil Nadu to north India last year, they have diverted their attention towards FMCG transported from Gujarat and Maharashtra to the State in 2015.
G R Shanmugappa, president of the Federation of Karnataka State Lorry Owners’ and Agents’ Association, said that 70 per cent of the trucks that report consignment theft on the NHs in Karnataka are bound for Tamil Nadu.
“It’s true that the number of such thefts has spiked this year. Ninety per cent of these crimes happen when the trucks are stopped at dhabas and unsafe parking areas,” he added.
In a few instances, miscreants got access to the trucks from the rear side when they reduced speed at night.
They cut open tarpaulin sheets covering the goods and took away parts of the consignments.
“Nobody can specify the place where criminals enter the trucks and take away the goods. Some of the most vulnerable points that have come to our notice are the Zalki checkpoint, Almatti, Hosepet, Hiriyur, Bijapur and Chitradurga,” Ramachandran of the South India Lorry Drivers’ and Cleaners’ Association said in Bengaluru.
The truckers’ association blamed the apathy of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) for the spike in pilferage.
“Patrolling is poor on NHs. This is a major reason for thieves to thrive on the tollways. Police also refuse to register FIRs about missing goods,” said R Sugumar, president of the Tamil Nadu Lorry Owners’ Federation.
When contacted, Rajeev Reddy, NHAI Regional Officer in Bengaluru, said that necessary steps would be taken to prevent theft on the highways.
“Private toll operators have patrolling vehicles, and such incidents would be brought to the notice of the Karnataka police,” he said.