Police forces in Chandigarh, India, arrested seven criminals who have allegedly been systematically stealing residential propane cylinders throughout the city, the Indian Express reported. Propane enjoys widespread popularity in India, where it’s used for cooking, home heating and motor fuel. Occasional shortages and weak regulation have lead to theft, decanting, and questionable distribution methods that law enforcement officials are working to curb.
Inspector Amanjot Singh described how one gang of women canvassed neighborhoods to select their targets.
“Two of the ladies used to roam in the area as rag pickers, whereas under the cover of rag picking, they used identified those houses whose gas cylinders were lying outside,” Singh explained. “After identifying their target house during the daytime they used to return during the night, mostly between 2:00 am and 4:00 am and steal the gas cylinders.”
Rag pickers, also known as waste pickers, pick out recyclable items from mixed waste receptacles wherever it is temporarily accessible. A highly stigmatized practice that comes with various occupational health issues, rag picking is an important environmental service that saves innumerable tons of recyclables from ending up in landfills. However, it’s not very lucrative.
Singh said the other thieves simply broke into locked houses when the owners weren’t there and took the tanks. Police believe all the stolen goods were being sold to local residents who weren’t legal consumers or didn’t have valid propane cylinder connections. Police recovered 27 of the stolen cylinders, good news since these unregulated tanks aren’t always up to proper safety standards.