RAHIM YAR KHAN: The theft of unserviceable sleeper blocks for steel extraction, including some track material along the main railway track of ML-I between Khanpur and Rahim Yar Khan, has been on the rise for the last few months, posing a constant life threat to rail passengers.

Railway sources have revealed that gangs from Chak 72-P and other villages along the railway line are stealing the material with the connivance of the permanent way inspector (PWI) of Khanpur staff and Kotsamaba police.

A new PCS sleeper block costs Rs36,000 and is replaced with unserviceable sleepers on the railway track. There are thousands of unserviceable sleepers along both sides of ML-I between Khanpur and Dahirki railway stations. Up to 13 kilograms of steel is used in a sleeper. The thieves sell the steel for Rs3,500 to Rs4,000 to scrap dealers.

Sources also said a significant quantity of precious timber from old sleepers at two big depots of Sahja and Kotsamaba railway stations has been the target of thieves with the connivance of the railway staff. They sell it to people to make doors and windows of houses. The sources added that every sleeper, either of steel or timber, is documented in the PWI office.

On April 21, the Sahja police registered a case against four people for stealing railway installations from the main railway track ML-1 near Kotsamaba railway station on Friday. The suspects not only damaged the railway track but also put the lives of railway passengers at risk.

According to the FIR, keyman Abdul Razaq intercepted a man at kilometer No 5/673-4 near Chak 72-P, stealing T-bolt clips. Razaq tried to catch him but the thief fled towards nearby Chak 72-P.

Meanwhile, Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor with two people rescued the thief with stolen railway material and escaped. Gangmen Nazar Hussain and Nasir Abbas arrived there and checked the railway track and found 12 T-nut bolts and clips were missing. By this act of theft, the suspects not only damaged the railway track but put the lives of railway passengers at risk.

When some railway employees complained about this practice to Kotsamaba police, it said that this was in the jurisdiction of Sahja police. It is also learnt that two railway officials of Sukkur division visited the Kotsamaba railway station on April 21 to inquire about the matter.

Khanpur Assistant Way Inspector Muhammad Iqbal said that the incidents of theft were a regular matter, and they had informed the PWI about these cases, but not a single criminal had been arrested yet. He said that when the PWI staff caught a thief red-handed on April 21, the railway staff received threats from them after they rescued the thief. However, a new machine has arrived, which will start stocking sleepers to avoid theft.

Railway spokesperson Babar Ali said that the railway police will take a stance on the issue. Railway Police spokesperson Muhammad Umair told Dawn that the area of the railway network is wide enough, and with each passing day, the number of employees is getting smaller. To overcome the shortage of employees, no new inductions took place in the railway police.

The railway department conducts round-the-clock push trolley track patrolling in the area where railway material is stored to prevent theft of the same. If the incident of theft comes to the attention of the railway police within its jurisdiction, prompt action is taken.

The railway police and railway staff are experiencing an acute shortage of staff, which could be the reason for the rising theft. But we are leaving no stone unturned to deal with this issue under the incumbent command of the railway police.

As far as the police is concerned, strict directions are being passed by high-ups from the Central Police Office to take immediate action and every possible measure in the form of assistance to the railway to prevent the theft of railway material.

Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2023

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