The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Housewife to hunted thief
- Husband’s death pushes woman and daughter to petty crime

Two years ago, Saraswati Biswas was just another housewife from a middle-class family in Chandernagore and daughter Sangita was just another student of Class IX.

On Monday, the mother and daughter booked a dubious place in the city’s crime record books, as pickpockets.

The arrest of Saraswati and 18-year-old Sangita, from Gariahat, on Sunday night, revealed how circumstances had steered a housewife to crime and prompted her to drag her daughter along. “They started picking pockets to make ends meet after the girl’s father died two years ago, plunging the house into an acute financial crisis,” said an officer of Gariahat police station.

Saraswati and Sangita were caught red-handed from the Gariahat crossing after lifting a purse from a woman’s bag. Both were remanded in police custody after being produced in Alipore court.

Soumen Mitra, deputy commissioner of police, detective department, said the snatch took place at around 10 pm in front of a garment store. “Manas Chakraborty and his wife Sudeshna were returning home after shopping, when Manas told his wife to wait while he hunted for a taxi,” said Mitra.

Saraswati and Sangita were keeping a close watch on the couple and as Sudeshna waited on the pavement, the mother moved in swiftly, swiped the purse from a shopping bag and passed it on to the daughter, police explained.

Sudeshna reacted swiftly. “She grabbed Saraswati’s arm and raised an alarm. Her husband and other pedestrians rushed to the spot,” said an officer of Gariahat police station, “As Sangita started defending her mother, she too was rounded up.” A search of Saraswati’s bag did not yield results, but the stolen purse was soon found in Sangita’s bag. “We arrested the mother and daughter on charges of pick-pocketing,” confirmed an officer on the case.

Monday’s interrogation helped police piece the story together. Saraswati’s husband Palash was employed with a private firm and the family never faced a financial problem. But all that changed cruelly after Palash died two years ago. “They had no money and Saraswati stopped sending her daughter to school,” police said.

Saraswati soon developed links with women criminals in the Chandernagore area who would come to Calcutta to pick pockets and snatch valuables. “Initially, Saraswati would come to the city with others. After a few months, she took her daughter along. She confessed to having picked pockets during the last Durga Puja,” an officer added.

Saraswati and Sangita, police said, would not arouse suspicion as they looked like any ordinary mother-daughter duo out shopping or pandal-hopping.

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