Yavatmal: In a bizarre incident, a former employee of the state transport department stole a bus to convince his estranged wife and children that he was no longer jobless, an official said.
Devendra M. Nimgaokar, 35, driver with the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC), was sacked in 2007 for prolonged absenteeism from duty and alcoholism, said Shivaji Targude, an official of Wadgaon police station in Yavatmal, eastern Maharashtra.
"Nimgaokar`s mother and sister had passed away a few years ago and he was suffering from depression. The Wani ST (state transport) Depot, where he was employed used to deploy him on long distance routes. He was reluctant to go on these and often bunked duties," Targude told agencies on Saturday.
As a consequence, Nimgaokar was sacked from the MSRTC, following which his wife and two children left him to live with his in-laws in Ichhora village, near Ladkhed in this southern Vidarbha district.
On May 21, a bus (No. MH-40-8629) of the Wani depot made a regular night halt at the Yavatmal bus depot.
Sensing an opportunity, Nimgaokar allegedly got into it and sped off to his wife`s village in order to convince her that he had been re-instated in service. It is not known if the bus had auto-ignition system or the ignition keys were left behind by the driver.
There was panic on Tuesday morning (May 22), when the vacant ST bus was discovered missing from the Yavatmal bus depot.
Top MSRTC and police swung into action and messages were relayed across the district in an effort to trace the missing bus.
It was finally found abandoned near Icchora village by the investigating team comprising of Sarjerao Gaekwad, Deepak Wanole and Iqbal Sheikh.
Two days later, the police also managed to trace Nimgaokar, who was hiding in Icchora village.
He was arrested and was presented before a local court on Friday, which granted him bail till June 6, Targude said.
The incident has sent alarm bells ringing through the MSRTC network, which witnessed a similar episode in Pune on January 25 this year.
A mentally disturbed driver, Santosh Mane, had hijacked a state transport bus and mowed down nine people and injured four more before he was caught.