On Tuesday morning, it was target Punjab National Bank at Gariahat. On Friday afternoon, it was target Sagar Gramin Bank, near Baguiati.
Matching the Gariahat bank robbery in both dare and damage stakes, a gang of six stormed the Jyangra branch of Sagar Gramin Bank and looted about Rs 10 lakh in cash and jewellery, in just over 10 minutes.
In the Gariahat operation, the gang of seven had taken close to 30 minutes to the clean out the vault of Rs 6 lakh.
If the armed dacoits had held up the south Calcutta branch without a fuss on Tuesday, it was no different at the other end of town on Friday. The gang just walked into the bank, held employees and customers hostage at gunpoint in a room and then left with a laugh.
Basudeb Bag, superintendent of police, North 24-Parganas, said a gang of six youths on two motorcycles stormed the bank around 1.10 pm. “The gangsters, armed with daggers and firearms, came when the owners of the shops bang opposite the bank had gone for lunch. Two of the goons stood guard in front of the main entrance while the rest marched in.”
The dacoits herded the six customers present in the bank into a room, at gunpoint, and locked them in. One of the youths, brandishing “a sharp weapon”, then headed for the cash counter. Cashier Rupa Das was told to hand over “all the money there was in the cash-box”. When she hesitated, the goon reached across to the cash-box and emptied it.
“The robbers then went to Bankim Banerjee, branch assistant manager. They instructed him, in Bengali, to hand over the keys to the vault,” said Ashoke Singha Roy, circle inspector of Barasat, who conducted a spot-investigation. Banerjee was then taken to the vault, at gunpoint, and forced to open it. The goons took out jewellery weighing 334 gm, kept as mortgage, and also money to the tune of Rs 5,10,429.
It was all over in 10 minutes. “After cleaning out the cash box and the vault, they herded all five bank employees into another room and coolly walked out,” added Singha Roy.
Officers from Baguiati and Rajarhat police stations patrolling the area claimed that they chased the gangsters, but in vain. “The two motorcycles were speeding off in two different directions, towards Rajarhat. Some policemen tried to follow in an auto-rickshaw, while others later went after them in a jeep,” said Singha Roy. But they couldn’t even get close.
Bibhash Kanti Mukherjee, general manager of the bank, said the Jyangra branch did not have its own security arrangements. “We don’t have any system to deploy armed security guards. The local police station patrols the bank once a day. Now, we are thinking of engaging armed security guards in all our branches,” he added.
Police, meanwhile, are trying to link the Gariahat and Jyangra hold-ups. Two officers from the detective department, probing the Gariahat dacoity, visited the north-east Calcutta branch later on Friday.