GHAZIABAD: Sometime over the weekend, burglars drilled a two-foot hole in the wall of the strongroom of Punjab National Bank’s Modinagar branch, entered through the opening they had made, and emptied out 30 lockers. Nobody really knows the exact value of what they stole, but it could easily run into crores.
The branch is located on NH-58 and is adjacent to an L shaped plot on which sits an abandoned rubber factory. On this plot, an empty office is right behind where the bank’s strongroom is, sharing a common wall.
The burglars entered this office, and cut the hole in the common wall, which is about nine inches thick, at a height just above where the lockers end.
The burglary was discovered around 9:45am on Monday when a bank staffer, Anil Bhargav, and the head cashier, Ajay Kumar, opened the strongroom which has two security doors.
The steel door of the strongroom can be opened with a set of two keys, kept in the custody of these officials, only when they are inserted together into the keyholes.
“After opening the steel door, the officials were about to open the next door which is an iron grille like those found in prisons. However, they noticed through the grille that things had been scattered inside the strongroom. They also noticed that several lockers seemed to have been bro ken. They immediately called up the police control room,” assistant general manager S K Pancholi told TOI.
Bank officials said there has been no security guard at the bank. “The strongroom had been closed on Friday around 6pm. The bank was closed for two days after that. A security alarm is also installed inside the strongroom apart from a CCTV camera. Even if the alarm went off, there was no one to hear it since the bank was closed. There was no security guard at the branch. The branch depended on police patrol vehicles for security,” added Pancholi.
The burglars managed to open only 30 lockers, but it was evident they had tried to break a few more. There are 435 lockers in the strongroom, of which 96 are not in use at present. The burglars also stole a double-barrelled gun kept inside a steel cabinet inside the strongroom though the iron chest containing the bank’s cash reserves had been left untouched.
TOI visited the strongroom and found that a hole had been drilled at a height of over six feet, above the steel locker cabinets. A full-length mirror on a side wall had been smashed. The cabinet containing the gun, which once upon a time was used by a security guard, had also been forced open.
Senior officials of Ghaziabad police reached the bank after receiving the call, along with a forensic team and a dog squad. Fingerprints have been lifted from the scene.The bank operates out of a rented building which once belonged to the now-abandoned Modi Rubber Factory .According to officials, the building has now been sold to Haryana Distilleries which has continued with the rent agreement.
On the other side of the bank is a building which houses the office of Modi Spinning & Weaving Mills Employees’ Union. Cops used the ladder of a fire engine to enter the compound of the abandoned factory whose walls are at least 30-feet high.
According to cops, the room from which the burglars had drilled the hole contained a small steel almirah, a table and a typewriter which are also in derelict condition. Police said the burglars had broken the cement-concrete of the nine-inch-thick wall with the help of hammers and pickaxes while its steel frame was cut open with the help of blade saws. The equipment has been recovered by police from the spot.
“The factory compound has been lying vacant for several years now. It is in a dilapidated condition. For several years, the factory’s workers used to collect their salaries through a window of the bank that opens into the compound but has been sealed now. We are computing losses,” bank second-man Anil Bhargav told TOI.
“My wife had put all her jewellery into the locker. She had been operating it. She had also put other valuables and important documents into it.We have no idea if we will ever be able to get it back,” said Mukesh Goyal (40), a Modinagar-based trader.