The Yamuna Expressway has become a training ground for aspiring dacoits from the villages surrounding the Expressway. Several cases of loot by armed robbers have been reported by travellers taking the secluded highway in the wee hours of the day.
“Last month I was travelling on the Expressway early in the morning when we heard a loud sound similar to that of a tyre burst. When we got out of the car, a group of armed men cornered us. I was travelling with my wife and my infant child. None of us were harmed but they took away all the money and broke the car windows,” said Rohan Luthra, an Agra businessmen. Luthra was going to Agra after his midnight international flight landed in Delhi. He was carrying $3,200 (Rs 214,258), all of which was taken by the dacoits.
“The peak loot hour is after midnight till sunrise. They use an axle to hit the car wheel. The loud sound gives the impression of a tyre burst. These people have a similar modus operandi even though they don’t belong to the same gang. Most of these are local village men in their 20s. Some of them are from nearby Gurgaon villages or from other villages situated near the highway,” said a source in Rabupura police station.
Major police stations where such cases have been registered are Rabupura in Greater Noida, Naujheel in Mathura and Tappal in Aligarh. Each of these police stations has registered five to 12 FIRs for theft on the highway using the same modus operandi over the last 10 months. Some of these cases have been solved and the accused have been arrested.
It was revealed during an investigation that most of these culprits did not have a previous criminal record. “It’s like they are learning how to loot under the guidance of those who know better than them. The highway can almost be called their training ground,” explained a police source.
They rob in groups of at least eight to 10 men. There have been no cases of severe injury to the victims. No cases of sexual harassment have been reported. In almost all the cases, only money and the jewellery were taken, with cars rarely snatched. In none of the cases did hitting the wheel with an axle lead to a major accident, said police sources.
At Tappal police station, 12 cases registered in mid-2015 were solved with the arrest of six men. “These men, in their late 20s and early 30s, had six country made pistols and 12 cartridges. They are village folk who come from poverty stricken backgrounds and are school drop-outs. The cash stolen in the cases could not be recovered,” said a source.
An exporters’ association, Agra Footwear Manufacturers Exporters Chamber (AFMEC), of which Luthra is a member, had written a letter to the UP government after the incident requesting for increasing vigilance on the Expressway.
Luthra said that apart from him there have been other similar cases with people in their association. “We haven’t received any acknowledgement of our letter yet. We sent it right after the incident late February so maybe they’ll take some more time to reply. But we definitely hope for things to get better since that highway is important for the business here. People travel frequently by Yamuna Expressway and carry a good amount of money with them,” said Luthra.