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Vehicles choke on trigger-happy highway

- Criminals loot trucks, kill drivers & cleaners on National Highway 28, transporters seek police patrol

A 330-km stretch on National Highway 28 between Gopalganj and Barauni has become a nightmare for truck drivers.

Over 15 cases of loot and murder of truck drivers were registered this year.

“Many cases go unnoticed because neither the driver nor the cleaner of the truck survive to report the loot to the police,” Bihar Transport Association president Sanjay Jain said.

He added that many cases go unnoticed because often the hijackers flee with the vehicle, dumping the body of the drivers and cleaners in some secluded place on the highway.

The trucks passing through NH-28 often fall prey to gangs operating along the highway, apparently, to loot the loaded consignments.

“The drivers and the cleaners of the trucks are also being killed,” Jain stated in a letter sent to Pankaj Darad, the inspector-general (Muzaffarpur).

Speaking to The Telegraph, Jain said a truck loaded with tea leaves from Assam was hijacked on its way to Indore on December 5.

“It was hijacked on gunpoint near Markan village on NH-28 under the jurisdiction of Sakra police station in Muzaffarpur on December 5. Driver Satyanam Singh and cleaner Pawan Yadav, however, survived the attack. They were later found unconscious in Patehpur village in Vaishali district. The driver lodged an FIR with the Sakra police station and brought the matter to the notice of the Bihar Transport Association on December 7,” Jain said.

According to the driver’s statement to the police, the 18 wheel-truck was loaded with tea leaves valued at Rs 50 lakh. The driver also stated in the FIR that six gun-toting criminals in an SUV hijacked the truck in Markan. “They were chasing the truck from Barauni zero miles,” he said.

The driver added that he had got down the truck in Barauni zero miles for fuel and had taken a break from driving for around half-an-hour.

“The criminals must have got a hint of what the assignment was and how much it would have fetched in the market. They tried to kill the cleaner and also me but did not,” he said.

Later, Singh was found unconscious near Patehpur. Then, an FIR was lodged. Senior superintendent of police, Muzaffarpur, Saurav Kumar said five criminals — Naresh Kumar Mahto, Md Ibrahim, Md Aslam, Rupesh Kumar and Bablu Kumar — all residents of Muzaffarpur have confessed their involvement in the crime. All four have been arrested.

The president of North Bihar Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NBCCI), Motilal Chapari, and the district president of Muzaffarpur Goods Transport Welfare Association, M.L. Purohit, have demanded highway patrolling.

IG Darad who has taken a serious note of loot cases on highways, directed the superintendents of police of Muzaffarpur, Vaishali, East Champaran, West Champaran, Siwan, Gopalganj and Saran districts that run along the highway to take preventive steps.

“The possibility of launching highway patrolling should be explored soon,” the IG said.