The Hinjewadi police last week claimed to have nabbed a gang of robbers targeting passengers on the Mumbai-Bangalore highway on the pretext of offering “a lift”, but highway robberies continue unabated in the city.
In the latest incident, Ashish Sarawde, a 34-year-old software professional working with a firm in Hinjewadi, was beaten up and robbed of cash and valuables worth Rs 67,000 by three unidentified persons who had offered him a lift in their car to Thane. Sarawde, who is from Thane and stays in Kothrud here, boarded the private vehicle from Hotel Rajyog around 11 pm on Friday. He spent five harrowing hours in the car with the miscreants who finally dropped him on Paud Road at 3.50 am. Police are yet to trace the robbers.
According to the Hinjewadi police, they are finding it difficult to nab the culprits as the victim is unable to provide crucial details about the vehicle used in the crime. Sub-Inspector J N Jagdale said Sarwade was waiting at the Rajyog Hotel, a popular boarding point for private buses and cabs, on Friday night to take a bus or a cab to Thane. As he did not get any vehicle for a long time and it was raining, he decided to board the private car when its driver offered him a ride in lieu of money.
“His relief didn’t last long as he soon found out that the driver and the two other occupants of the car were, in fact, robbers. They started beating him up and snatched valuables from him at knifepoint. They took his mobile phone, cash and jewellery worth Rs 67,000. They kept driving throughout the night and finally dropped him on Paud Road, around 20 km from where he had boarded, at 3.50 am on Saturday,” said Jagdale.
This is the third such incident to have taken place since April this year. On April 14, three suspects had robbed a 23-year-old hotel manager from Hinjewadi of valuables worth Rs 14,500 after he boarded their taxi. They picked him up from Wakad on the promise of dropping him in Mumbai and then started threatening and beating him up. They later dumped him in Bavdhan.
On May 19, a sales manager with a private company in Chennai, who was visiting the city for some work, was robbed of valuables worth Rs 1.3 lakh, including gold ornaments, three cell phones and a laptop, when he boarded a taxi to Mumbai from Wakad. He managed to escape the tormentors by jumping out of the running cab.
On July 7, the Hinjewadi police arrested three persons claiming that the trio had committed both the April 4 and the May 19 robberies. After the latest incident, however, the police believe multiple gangs could be operating on the highway.
The police said while they were on the lookout for the culprits, it was important for passengers to take precautions while boarding a private vehicle. “We have issued several advisories and even conducted workshops for software professionals asking them to be cautious while boarding private vehicles and cabs. It’s important for them to note down the number of the car and send it across to their friends or relatives so that it proves helpful in case any untoward incident happens. Before boarding they should also try and confirm if the occupants of the car are genuine passengers. We have also asked them to completely avoid taking lift from private vehicles,” said Jagdale.
In the present case, he added, the investigators were groping in the dark as the victim had failed to note down the registration number and couldn’t even remember the car type and built. “The only thing he can tell us is that it was red,” said the officer.