Times of India – Two ship-breakers get death threats, Alang seeks security

6 October 2012 - RAJKOT: The world’s biggest ship dismantling yard – Alang – is reeling under fear. Already battling rampant thefts on board the vessels from local pirates, ship-breakers are now alleging threat to their lives.

On Thursday, president of Ship Recycling Industries Association (India) V K Gupta was allegedly threatened of dire consequences by a one person who intercepted his car when he was on his way to Alang from Bhavnagar.

According to Alang police station officials, Gupta was intercepted by one Vanrajsinh Gohil near Kathva village on Thursday and he threatened him.

On September 30, too, another ship-breaker in Sosiya yard Ramesh Agrawal was allegedly threatened by Gohil and a police complaint was lodged on Thursday. Alang police inspector P R Desai told TOI that they have lodged an FIR against Gohil. Local Crime Branch officials have fanned out across the villages near Alang to nab Gohil.

On Friday, a group of ship-breakers on Friday met district collector V P Patel and senior police officials to demand for more safety measures in wake of such incidents. Ship-breakers have demanded State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) for their protection.

“The goons and thieves have gone a step further and are now threatening ship-breakers,” joint secretary of the association Nikhil Gupta said.

Alang has been witnessing frequent cases of thefts where miscreants, mostly from nearby villages, use small boats and board the ships to steal whatever they can lay their hands on. They also threaten security guards at the ship-breaking plots if stopped. The thieves are suspected to be coming from villages like Sartanpar, Bharapara, Mathavda and Mithivirdi and mostly strike at midnight. According to police records, there were 17 thefts reported in Alang in 2010, which increased to 24 in 2011.

On June 28, a 45-year-old watchman Sitaram Devmurari was murdered at one of the plots. In fact, Devmurari used to charge money from thieves to let them enter other plots and steal.

“We have arrested the three persons in this case. Devmurari has huge chunk of ancestral land in Alang from where accused used to go for thefts,” investigating officer at Alang police station S V Acharya said.

“The actual numbers of thefts in ship-breaking yards are much higher than what have registered at police station. This is a serious issue. In our meeting with police, we told them about various kinds of theft issue. Also, there is strong nexus between thieves and purchasers of stolen material in Alang itself,” a ship-breaker on the condition of anonymity said.