Taps, bedsheets, brass utensils, and iron grills. These are among several small items that have been stolen from the house of Usha Rani, a resident of Saila Khurd village in Garhshankar Tehsil of Hoshiarpur district.
Usha, in her sixties, now avoids leaving her house even for an hour. After all, her house has been robbed seven times in the past seven months. The thieves have still not been caught by the police despite Usha claiming that she has provided the entire details to the officials at local Mahilpur police station. She alleged that a couple of drug addicts are involved in the thefts.
Originally from Saila (in Hoshiarpur district), Usha is caretaker of the house owned by an NRI settled in Canada.
“Never before in my life had I been so worried,” the elderly woman, who has been living here for past several decades, said. She has retained all the broken locks left behind by the thieves.
“The thieves are drug addicts. They commit petty thefts to secure money for their daily dose. Today they’re committing thefts, tomorrow they might commit bigger crimes as police inaction has only boosted their morale. We’re living under constant fear,” she said.
They even stole a laptop and Rs15,000 cash from a room in the house that Usha had rented out. “The tenants vacated the room fearing more such thefts,” she added. “We know who the thieves are and have also given their names to the police, but they are sleeping over the inputs and evidence provided by us”.
In April last year, Rita Rani, a Municipal Committee Councilor, was returning home in the evening when she became a victim of the purse snatching. The incident took place barely 500 metres from the Mahilpur police station.
“I lodged a complaint and reminded them several times in the past years but till date no one has been arrested. The culprits are drug addicts from Mahilpur town. Several small thefts have also taken place at a shop where I work as an LIC agent. But, no action has been taken,” she claimed.
Another victim of the drug addicts, Harbhajan Kaur recalls how she was waylaid at her own home. The 78-year-old from Pandori Beet village of Beet area in Hoshiarpur was sleeping in the courtyard of her house when two youths, riding a motorcycle, reached there. They came to her seeking directions to an address in the village and requested her for some water to drink. “The moment I entered the house to fetch water, they pushed me on the floor and snatched my earrings,” Kaur said, adding she filed a police complaint.
The two youths, both drug addicts, were caught later while snatching gold ornaments from some other victim. “The case was registered but after on their parents’ request, I pardoned the youths,” Kaur said. “Such young people need education, employment and proper guidance instead of punishment”.
She, however, added that in the villages in that area such incidents of snatching have become quite common.
On the other side of the spectrum is a panchayat member from Mahilpur village whose teenage drug addict son has been involved in six cases of thefts and snatching in the recent past. Requesting anonymity, the panchayat member said that he has been making all efforts to get his son to give up drugs. He, however, accused the local police of not making sincere efforts to arrest the drug peddlers.
Last week, a woman was looted outside the local branch of nationalised bank in Mahilpur while a couple, from Maira village in Beet area, fell from the motorcycle they were riding when some drug addicts snatched the woman’s ornaments.
Such petty crime incidents have seen a surge in the Kandi areas of Hoshiarpur district where crime rate used to be quite low till some years back. Both police and the locals attribute such incidents to drug addiction among the mostly unemployed youth.
“These are not isolated cases. Several such cases have been reported from the remote areas of Hoshiapur even as several others go unreported,” said a senior police officer, requesting anonymity. “Ever since ‘chitta’ (synthetic drug made from heroin and other substances) became popular among the addicts, they took to committing petty thefts, stealing anything that they can lay their hands on and that can fetch them just enough money to buy their daily dose,” he added.
Contacted, SSP Hoshiarpur, J Elanchezhian told The Indian Express that he will look into all the cases by seeking a report from the concerned station house officers (SHOs).