TAMIL NADU

Three members of biscuit bandit gang held

CHENNAI OCT. 3 . In a major breakthrough, the Government Railway Police in Chennai, along with the Railway Police of Vijayawada, arrested a three-member `biscuit bandits' gang, which was operating in trains between Howrah and Vijayawada.

The arrested were identified as Tapas Mandal (30), Duleep Dulai (48) and Molla Raju (26), all belonging to Boz Boz village in 24 Parganas district of West Bengal.

According to the Superintendent of Railway Police (SRP), M. Ravi, a special party headed by Inspector of Police, V.Pandian was formed following reports on the operation of biscuit bandits aboard trains. The team camped in Vijayawada and checked every train passing through the station during night hours. Whenever passengers did not respond when the police woke them up, the identity of other passengers in the compartment was checked.

On September 25, on finding three persons in a sedated condition on the Chennai-bound Howrah Mail, the police interrogated the co-passengers in the compartment, which resulted in the arrest of the bandits, Mr Ravi said.

During interrogation, the bandits admitted to their involvement in 19 cases in various parts of the country, of which four were registered with the Government Railway Police in Chennai Central railway station, the SRP said.

In his hometown in West Bengal, Tapas Mandal was the leader and more than 35 persons were working under him. All the persons were given training on how to develop rapport with the passengers and at the right time, sedate them by mixing tranquilising medicines in the food, beverage or biscuits, the SRP said. As far as the passengers on Howrah Mail on September 25, the culprits used `Benzo Diazipen', tranquiliser used by physicians while conducting heart surgeries, Mr Ravi said. Those who took this medicine would doze off within 45 minutes and would remain entranced for more than 10 hours.

Explaining the modus operandi of the gang, Mr. Ravi said the gang members used to board the train at Howrah and freely mix with the co-passengers. During daytime, they used to offer biscuits and snacks without any sedating medicines. But in the evening, when the passengers requested them to get some food, the gang members would mix sedatives and give it to passengers. ``By the time the train reaches Ongole, they would have removed all the belongings of the victims and get down there. From there, they used to return home with the booty'', he said.

So far the gang removed valuables to the tune of Rs. 7.50 lakhs from various parts of the country. Police recovered stolen articles worth Rs. 2.50 lakhs from them.

Lack of coordination between the GRP and RPF constables was stated to be one of the main reasons for the biscuit bandits to operate freely in the trains. However, denying such criticisms, the SRP said, "We have perfect coordination".

The Inspector General of Police (Railways), R. Sekar suggested that as done in flights, announcements be made every half-an-hour in every compartment, using public address system. Such an effort would help the commuters to be alert, he said.

A team of officials led by the Deputy Inspector General of Police (Railways), C.K. Gandhirajan had gone to Kolkata to discuss the biscuit bandits issue with railway and local police. The team would also seek the assistance of the West Bengal police to nab the other members of the gang, Mr Ravi added.

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