A senior bank manager has been missing from Ranchi for over a month with his family alleging that in spite of telltale signs of “foul play”, the police were not doing enough.
Chief manager of UCO Bank’s Dhurwa branch S.R. Bhattacharya (54) has been missing since the night of June 16. While he was in touch with colleagues at the bank via text messages till then, a security guard at his Latma Road home claimed to have met him a day before.
Bhattacharya’s wife, Sumita, is distraught. Ever since she lodged a missing person’s case at Jagannathpur police station on June 24, Sumita hasn’t been at peace. For, she believes there is something seriously amiss and that Ranchi police weren’t doing enough.
“Forget about finding clues regarding my missing husband. Police officers have even failed to locate his cell phone and motorbike,” she told The Telegraph over phone from her Mathura residence.
Enquiries at the Dhurwa branch revealed that Bhattacharya had been suspended a week after his wife lodged the case. A notice pasted on the board of the bank branch provided the reasons. The senior manager had apparently granted “advances” to clients without proper documentation and had allowed overdraft of amounts in excess of his eligibility.
Officials at the branch expressed concern about the senior manager’s whereabouts. “I joined three days ago. All I know is that Bhattacharya had taken leave for seven days a month ago but hasn’t returned so far,” said R.J. Shankara, the zonal manager.
The police seem to believe that Bhattacharya was in hiding, given his problems at the bank. “The senior manager is not missing. He is hiding somewhere as we have come to know that some departmental proceedings is going on against him,” said an officer at Jagannathpur police station.
But, UCO Bank doesn’t agree. Investigation officer (vigilance) V.S. Rana, who visited Ranchi early in July to look into the case, has already submitted a report to the circle office in Patna.
“This is an internal matter and not uncommon in banking circles. I don’t think a bank official will go into hiding because of such a problem. There must be some other reason,” he said.
Now, the bank’s vigilance cell is planning to lodge its own FIR.
“Today (Friday), I am writing to our zonal office in Ranchi to register a missing person’s case as he has not turned up for work for a long time,” Vinod Kumar, DGM (vigilance) told The Telegraph from Calcutta.
Jagannathpur officer-in-charge Anil Kumar admitted they were yet to locate the missing manager. “We are doing everything we can. A team was sent to Jaipur based on the information collected from bank officials and his call details,” he said.
Kumar was referring to a friend Bhattacharya is known to have in Rajasthan. The police traced her, thinking he may have gone to see her. But he was not in Jaipur.
The family also refutes the police claim that he was hiding. Wife Sumita said two letters were found in his house that indicated he was being threatened.
“On June 24 when I, accompanied by police officers, opened the door of my husband’s flat where he was staying alone, I found everything was in order. Except, I noticed two letters inside a book,” she said, adding that the contents of the letters indicated he was being threatened by two account holders.
The letters have been passed on to the police.
Gautam Bhattacharya, a cousin who lives in Calcutta, said it was completely out of character for “SRB” to go missing. “True, he had problems at the bank, but these were about wrong professional calls. He is the kind of person who would not hesitate to face the consequences of his actions,” said Gautam, a senior journalist.
“If he was indeed in hiding, how come police haven’t been able to locate his motorbike? I sincerely hope Ranchi police take the case seriously and move quickly,” he added.