The sight of large numbers of abandoned, rusted vehicles in and around the compound of a police station in Kerala is very common. These confiscated vehicles, ranging from two-wheelers to heavy vehicles, remain there for years. Though the police department has permission to auction them, there are a lot of legal problems in doing so. Moreover, there are not many buyers for these vehicles. As per a 2019 report, there are more than 40,000 vehicles rusting at police stations in the state.
Vexed with the vehicles, Thrissur districtâ€™s Cheruthuruthy police started growing organic vegetables in some of them. Rangaraj, a civil police officer who is also a farmer, takes care of the cultivation along with officers Simpson, Sudhakaran, Baby, Ranjit, Raghu and Anil.
â€śWe had a few mini lorries that we had caught for sand and soil smuggling. Three months ago, we decided to cultivate vegetables in them. It was a successful attempt â€“ we got our first harvest last week. We gave the vegetables to our police canteen,â€ť Simpson PT, a civil police officer from the station, says.
Since the cultivation was successful, the police officers plan to extend it to other vehicles too. In the first phase, they planted ladies finger, spinach and long beans. Now they plan to try growing other vegetables too.
However, there are many other stations that do not have a clue as to what to do with the confiscated vehicles rusting in their compounds. Police officers cite many reasons why these vehicles lay there rusting.
â€śIf a vehicle is seized for some illegal activity, its owners will never want to claim it, usually only the driver would be caught. In the case of accident vehicles, many times they are not taken back by owners even after a court order because they might have lost their loved ones in the accident and donâ€™t want to think about it. In other cases, it might take a few years to get a verdict and by then the vehicle would have rusted and become useless, so nobody wants to take it back,â€ť a station house officer (SHO) from North Kerala says.
â€śSHOs are responsible for auctioning the vehicles, but we need a lot of legal clearances to do that. Itâ€™s not easy, so these vehicles remain here for years. There are many stations in the state that have turned into a junkyard,â€ť the officer adds.
In 2018, Director General of Police Loknath Behera had directed all SHOs to clear the confiscated vehicles from police stations, but that did not happen effectively.
In Kasaragodâ€™s Chattanchal, there was a protest earlier by local residents that the poramboke area where these seized vehicles are kept was being used by miscreants for illegal activities.
â€śItâ€™s a large area of land where these vehicles are dumped, people can hide here easily. At night they use these vehicles to consume alcohol and drugs. People living around here are actually scared,â€ť Basheer, a resident of Chattanchal, says.