Kirti Ranjan Jha and wife Smita, who went to meet their son in Bangalore, almost lost a bag full of jewellery on their way home to Jamshedpur’s Sonari from Tatanagar station. If the elderly couple got back their 200gm gold belongings, it is because of an honest auto-rickshaw driver.
Asked why they were travelling with all the precious trinkets, Jha said: “We have applied for a bank locker, but there are none empty. We have been asked to wait until someone surrenders. The gold is not safe at home. So, there was no choice.”
A spurt in burglaries in the steel city has triggered a sprint for lockers. But, since this super-safe facility in banks is limited, applicants may have to wait for months. In total desperation, many like the Jhas are thinking up smart, albeit not always safe, alternatives.
And those who are not are bearing the brunt.
On May 14 afternoon, Northern Town resident Dr Sunil Kumar, who is in charge of Tata Main Hospital’s casualty section, took his wife for a check-up. The couple returned to find ornaments, including a diamond-studded necklace, worth Rs 15 lakh missing from the almirah.
“We had approached SBI for a locker, but were told to wait until one is free. We had no option,” said the senior doctor who shifted to the city from Bangalore a few months ago.
Sakchi resident K. Kaushal claimed he had approached three banks for a locker facility, but in vain. “Keeping gold at home is like inviting trouble. But, what do we do when banks cannot offer safes?” said the transporter.
Senior official of Bank of India’s Bistupur branch R.P. Rajak conceded a sudden increase in demand for lockers. “Applications are piling up, but we are helpless. The facility is limited for security reasons. We can allot a safe to a new customer only if an old one surrenders,” he said.
Central Bank of India’s manager (operations) R.S. Sahay echoed Rajak. “Although the number of lockers we have is much more than other commercial banks, it is still houseful,” Sahay added.
Police files show a rise in burglary cases in the past six months. Every day, at least one break-in is reported.
City SP Karthik S., however, claimed that earlier there were more thefts and robberies in the city.
“Our steps to curb crime have yielded results. Gangs are being busted and burglaries are fewer now,” he said.
Asked why residents were rushing for lockers if the city had become safer, the senior officer declined to comment.
Bankers pointed out that vaults were equipped with cameras and burglar alarms, and promised round-the-clock security.
“Every locker has a combination of two keys of which one remains with the client. A safe cannot be opened with either key. And for this extensive security bandobast, the annual fee is a paltry Rs 800. Why wouldn’t people opt for a locker (when safety is not guaranteed at home)?” said a senior SBI official.
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