Hazaribagh, Jan. 12: A team of police from three districts seized a “record” haul of smuggled coal and nabbed 17 people after chasing nine trucks and two SUVs in Hazaribagh around 5am today in an operation that was kept under wraps till the last moment.
Inspector-general (Coal Belt) Murari Lal Meena, who formed a 35-member team of policemen from Bokaro, Hazaribagh and Giridih following a tip-off, said Rs 1.86 lakh in cash was also recovered from the arrested drivers and cleaners.
Meena said that each truck was ferrying 15 to 20 tonne coal, pegging the haul at anywhere between 135 to 180 tonne.
The arrested persons along with the vehicles were brought to Tatijharia police station. During initial investigations, the men who have not been identified yet revealed that they were residents of the three neighbouring districts and worked for two coal smugglers, Babulal Ansari and Mumtaz, of Ramgarh.
Sources said Meena was monitoring the police operation that was kept highly confidential with the officers given instructions not to use their mobile phones until the culprits were caught.
Sources said the coal was excavated from Uparghat area in Bermo, Bokaro, by illegal miners who crossed a river on foot between Penk and Narayanpur in the neighbouring district before reaching Galhobar in Vishnugarh, Hazaribagh.
From Galhobar, situated on the border of the two districts, the coal-laden trucks were headed towards Grand Trunk Road via Tatijharia.
Officer in charge of Tatijharia police station Rameshwar Ram, who was leading the joint team, said they were waiting in five SUVs at Vishnugarh Chowk.
“We finally caught them after a chase for a couple of kilometres near Holang in Tatijharia, over 35km from the district headquarters,” he said. The OC added that the police also recovered 17 cellphones.
Meena, along with deputy inspector-general (North Chotanagpur) Suman Gupta and Hazaribagh superintendent of police Manoj Kaushik, reached the spot and checked documents recovered from the arrested men.
The IG said the trucks were headed for Punjab. An FIR was lodged.