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Robbery by cab drivers on highways on the rise

Hiring private cars from city’s exit points to Mumbai or Bangalore fast becoming an unsafe option; IT professionals become soft targets even as the police step up security measures

Written by Sushant Kulkarni | Pune | Published: September 8, 2013 2:58:44 am

Expressways and highways may have brought cities closer and helped people travel more often. But this has also led to a spike in highway crimes especially robbery. A case in point is the recent incident in which an IT employee,who took a private cab to Mumbai from Wakad,was robbed by the cab driver.

At 5.30 am on August 31,32-year-old Revatram Dayaram Chowdhary,an employee of Infosys,hired a private car from near Wakad bridge to Mumbai. He was on his way for an interview. But after travelling a few kilometres,the cab driver decided to stop the vehicle to check air pressure in tyres.

Then all of a sudden,the driver and the co-passenger pointed a knife at him. They blindfolded him and took away his bank card,using which they first withdrew Rs 10,000. Then they forced Chowdhary to call his wife and tell her to deposit more money in the account,after which they withdrew another Rs 35,000. They then tied him to a tree on Dehu Road on Pune-Mumbai highway and fled the scene. At around 7.30 am,Chowdhary managed to cut himself loose. He then filed a complaint with the Hinjewadi police station.

Of late,highway robbery of this kind has become commonplace. Even the police agree. Such incidents are happening despite the fact that the police had stepped up security measures after the murder of Infosys employee Vikram Poddar in March 2006 in a similar incident. “There have been many incidents in which passengers who take private cars from Wakad and other exit points in the vicinity have robbed off their valuables,” said Inspector Parshuram Patil of Hinjewadi police station. He said that some of them file complaints but many of them,mainly those working IT firms in Hinjewadi,just inform their HR departments.

“We urge all,especially IT professionals,to report every such incident to the police. We also appeal to them to travel in government buses or avail only services of trusted and reputed private travel firms to avoid such incidents,” said Patil.

According to the police,they have been acting against vehicles that ferry passengers to long-distance destinations illegally. “But these vehicles change their pick-up points often to evade the police. We have conducted awareness programmes for corporate professionals,” said Patil.

The police said the robbers are looking for soft targets and realise that IT professionals carry money and other valuables electronic gadgets. Such incidents are reported largely during weekends. When a Newsline team visited Wakad on Saturday,many IT professionals were seen hiring private cars to Mumbai. These included cars that are not attached to any reputed private cab services.

An IT employee working with a firm in Hinjewadi said he hired private cars as it was an easy option when there was no other alternate service available. “These care offer seats at low prices and also save time as they reach Mumbai faster,” he said.

“Such incidents of private car drivers robbing passengers were reported last year from Chandni Chowk and Warje Bridge,the city’s exit points from where vehicles are available to Mumbai and Bangalore,” said Senior Inspector Sunil Darekar of Warje police station.

In view of these incidents,the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) has opened a special pick-up point at Wakad especially for IT professionals who go to Mumbai during weekends. Vijay Kumar Diwte,depot manager,Swargate,said the MSRTC has been serving IT professionals who leave for Mumbai.

“MSRTC has a stop near Indira Institute,Wakad. We have opened a reservation counter which is open from 5.30 am to 12.30 pm. All the 370 services,including 57 Shivneri Volvo services which operate between Swargate-Mumbai,Swargate-Boriwali and Swargate-Dadar stop at Wakad,” he said.

(with inputs from Atikh Rashid)

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