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Stench of vice from vicinity of museum
Treasure chests drop guard

Calcutta, Jan. 1: Several suspects were questioned in the past two days, but police seemed clueless about the thieves of the Buddha head that went missing from Indian Museum and many archives appeared easy hunting grounds.

The priceless fifth century BC work went missing from a glass case in the Archaeology Long Gallery on Thursday, but city detective chief Peeyush Pandey said no 'headway' has been made yet. 'Investigation has proceeded' but I wouldn't want to use the word headway. There have been no arrests or recovery,' said Pandey

The police had earlier said there had to be an insider role in the heist, which involved precise knowledge about the security in place.

After the theft of Tagore's Nobel medal and other memorabilia from a Visva-Bharati museum in Santiniketan last March, the government had taken up for discussion the security arrangements at museums across the state.

A senior home department official said: 'The talks covered all museums, even those privately owned. Many private collectors' items are also lying without security'But not much has been done.'

Home secretary Amit Kiran Deb said: 'Security at Santiniketan has now been augmented. About other museums, I have no knowledge.'

Even after a series of discussions involving the Centre, Indian Museum continues to have an archaic security mechanism.

Museum director S.K. Basu said: 'The Central Industrial Security Force is preparing a report on the security needs for the museum. This will take into account modern gadgets that may have to be installed and ways to upgrade the existing arrangement. Once the CISF makes its suggestions, changes are expected.'

With over five times the usual crowd pouring in on January 1, the museum authorities appeared jittery.

'Plainclothes police personnel had been deployed, but we took no chances and asked the curatorial staff to do the rounds of the galleries,' a senior official said.

Inside the building, the museum is manned by its own guards and employees of a private security agency. Armed police personnel are on vigil outside at night. But the theft is suspected to have taken place during a visitors' rush.

Sources said security arrangements at Rabindra Bharati University's museum at Jorasanko are also poor. The university had installed closed-circuit televisions to monitor visitors' movements, but they are non-functional.

'It is true that the closed circuit TVs are not working. We had urged the government to sanction Rs 20 lakh for a modern security setup. But there was no communication from them,' said vice-chancellor Bharati Mukherjee.

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