They call it Number 2, vehicles stolen from elsewhere and sold to gullible folks here. You name any brand or make ranging from the latest to older versions including the SUVs and XUVs, one will get it at a few days’ notice at cheaper prices. It is mostly the neo-rich thikadars and spoiled brats of rich parents who are always on the lookout for newer versions as they see it as a ‘prestige’ symbol of sorts and they do not always bother about the ownership or registration details and other antecedents.
So, it was in fact a flourishing business for inter-state gangs who profit from sale of such Number 2 vehicles, while corrupt police officials make money by squeezing both the buyer and seller of the vehicles with dubious origins. It is said, some powerful politicians are also involved in this sleazy business and even police are sometimes helpless when these VVIPs or their sons flaunt the Number 2 vehicles in the streets of Imphal.
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It is also said that many such vehicles operate in the interior areas of the valley and hill districts and seldom have they gone beyond the district boundaries for fear of detection and seizure by police, especially the commandos. Many of the commandos are hard-pressed for work as insurgency activities have largely come down in the valley areas and now they are concentrating more in other crimes like drugs and vehicle theft.
Besides the campaign against drugs, Chief Minister N Biren Singh has now revived the Anti-Vehicle Theft Cell in the police department and has declared war on vehicle lifter gangs in the last few weeks. And, it is yielding results and police in almost every district have ramped up action against vehicle lifters leading to the recovery of several two-wheeler and four-wheeler vehicles across the state.
Every single day, police in the districts are reporting the arrest of gang members and seizure of stolen vehicles in the last few weeks. So, we are compelled to ask ourselves as to what the police were doing all the while regarding the menace of vehicle theft in the past. Just as the seizure of drugs had gone up in the last few years after CM N Biren announced the intensive campaign against drugs, the arrest of vehicle lifter gang members and recovery of stolen vehicles had gone up in leaps and bounds after the revival of the Anti-Vehicle Theft Cell.
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What does this trend tell us? It either implies they are lethargic in taking up timely action or some of them are hand in glove with the criminal elements. One thing is certain, police seldom act against such crimes unless they are needled or the fight against crime is taken up in a mission mode. In the past, police teams from other states, more particularly from Delhi had turned up in Manipur in search of stolen vehicles and it often led to large scale seizures. Delhi police have been able to crack vehicle theft cases and round up members of such gangs and in many cases persons of Manipur origin especially from a particular community are found involved.
In the present mission in the state also, persons of a particular community are found involved in most cases of vehicle theft. So indeed, a soul searching is needed at this juncture.