The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Lone gunman shoots bank water-bearer

It was just another Friday for caretaker Balaram Singh as he drew open the collapsible gates of Indian Overseas Bank (IOB), branch on the first floor of 63/1A, Sarat Bose Road, at 8.30 am. Not for long. Fifteen minutes later, a youth stormed in, firing from an improvised revolver at Markanda Behera, 30, who washes and fills the water bottles for the bank’s employees.

The assailant fled before the few employees trickling into the bank could react. Behera has been admitted to Ramakrishna Mission Seva Pratisthan.

Branch manager D.K. Saha later said business at the bank begins at 9 am. “The caretaker opens the gates at 8.30 am for the employees to arrive and settle down. Five of them had arrived and Behera was washing the bottles and filling them up,’’ he said.

Witnesses said they saw a youth rush into the bank and shoot Behera in the lower abdomen. “The bank employees were too scared to react, as the gunman raced down the stairs and escaped,’’ said a witness.

Two of the employees carried Behera to hospital, where doctors said his condition was critical. Basu clarified that Behera was not a bank employee: “We had awarded the contract of washing and filling the water bottles to someone, whose employee Behera was.’’ The bank manager added that Behera had been on the job for the past seven years and had never given the employees any cause for complaint.

Deputy commissioner of police, south, Kuldip Singh said Behera worked as a domestic help in R.K. Sharma’s apartment on the second floor of the same building. Jagadish Sharma, R.K.’s brother, said Behera has been with the family for the past 20 years. “He was very soft-spoken and had no enemies. We are shocked by the incident,’’ he added.

Preliminary investigations failed to ascertain the cause of the attack. Three possibilities were thrown up.

Police said it could be that some miscreants had earlier sought Behera’s help to rob the bank and when he refused, they decided to teach him a lesson.        

Or, the assailant might have borne a personal grudge against Behera. Cops are also not ruling out the possibility of the youth having had plans to rob the bank just before it opened, when the cash for the day is sorted out. He might have run into Behera and shot him.

The bank has an armed security guard but he had just arrived for duty when the gunman struck. The guard’s rifle was still in the strong room and he wasn’t even in uniform. “It is an unfortunate incident but there was nothing we could have done to prevent it,’’ said Basu.

Bhowanipore police said the assailant probably lived in a slum near Ballygunge police station. “We are combing the area to locate the culprit… But we are not yet clear about the actual motive behind the attack,” admitted Apurba Som Choudhury, officer-in-charge of Bhowanipore police station.

nHospital suicide: Dipak Mahato, 27, admitted to Medical College and Hospital’s ENT wing for the past month, hanged himself in the bathroom on Friday afternoon. Doctors said he was suffering from depression.

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