At Rs 70 a kilo, thieves find onion is a steal
Thieves broke into an onion warehouse in Bihar late on Sunday night and escaped with hundreds of sacks full of the precious bulb, leaving the owner distraught and police dumbstruck.
Stealing 328 sacks — even in the dead of night — was by no means an easy heist.
The theft, on the intervening night of Sunday and Monday, took place at a time onion prices have rocketed, selling at anything between Rs 60 and Rs 70 in markets in Bihar, around three times the normal range of Rs 20-25, and even higher in some other states.
Wholesalers attribute the high prices to heavy rainfall in onion growing areas that they say has destroyed the crop this year.
Dheeraj Kumar, the owner of the godown in Sonaru, under Fatuha police station in Patna district, said he learnt about the theft after people living near the warehouse called him on Monday morning.
“We had locked our depot on Sunday night after finishing the daily trading and accounts-related work and gone home. People living around the depot called me today (Monday) morning and informed me that the locks were broken and the depot was lying open,” Kumar said.
Kumar, who stays in Kolhar, a village in the same police station are, rushed with his family to the depot to find that a large number of onion sacks were missing.
“They took away 328 big bags of onions worth around Rs 8 lakh as per the price at which wholesalers like us bring it (the bulb) from Maharashtra, Bengal and parts of Bihar. In the retail market the price of the stolen onions would be around Rs 16 lakh to Rs 18 lakh at the current prices. The thieves also took away Rs 1.83 lakh in cash kept in an almirah. The money had come from the sale of onions on Saturday,” Kumar said.
Bihar produces onions but the yield is not enough to meet its needs.
A police team visited the warehouse soon after the local police station was informed about the theft. “It seems the thieves either used a truck or a couple of smaller goods vehicles to transport the stolen onions,” Fatuha station house officer (SHO) Manish Kumar said.
“Loading such a large number of onion bags would require at least six to eight people. People around the place must have noticed something happening in the dead of night or during the early hours.”
The SHO added that the onion merchant had insured his consignment and “we are probing from that angle too”.
“Investigations are on and everything will come to light. We are also wondering how and where the thieves would dispose of the stolen onions.”
While that remains a mystery, the unusual theft has had an immediate impact: onion merchants in Patna and elsewhere in Bihar have decided to appoint night guards at their warehouses.