The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rob a bank, repay a debt

Ranchi, Jan. 30: Debt is driving people to rob rural banks in Jharkhand. In startling confessions to the police, several 'dacoits' have reportedly claimed that they were forced to loot cash from banks to pay off the money-lenders. Nothing or very little was retained for themselves as the small farmers and daily wage earners took to bank robbery to pay off loans they took for wedding festivities, among other reasons.

The arrest of two of these people by Bero police on Sunday revealed the poignant tale, which also explains why the police have failed to recover any of the money looted from banks in recent months, though scores of people arrested have confessed to the crime.

The two men arrested today had looted Rs 2 lakh from a bank in Saunda (Hazaribagh) on January 11. Unveiling the blueprint, one of them said, 'We kept a close eye on the bank. A rural bank has very few officials and poor security. The Saunda bank had just one guard and he did not have any weapon either.

'We reached the bank around 12 noon and the guard was not around. Three men kept vigil outside, while five of us entered the bank. There were just four officials, including a woman. We whipped out knives and asked the officials to assemble at a place. The manager was asked to empty the cash counter and we stowed away the money into a jute bag and fled,' he added.

'Keeping a close eye on the bank gave us complete idea about the number of officials and other details,' he added.

Police said no firearms were recovered from these people. 'Normally, professional criminals carry firearms. But they use daggers, knives and iron rods to terrorise their victims and we do not have any information about any casualty,' the official said. 'So far, our investigation suggests that these men belong to the poorer section of the society and burdened by debts. Finding no other alternative to repay the money, they took this step. Soon after robbing the bank, they would divide the money among themselves and repay the moneylender,' said an official of the Bero police station area.

One of them, Kailash Mochi, who was arrested from Bero, said, 'I am a daily wage labourer in Saunda area. I had taken Rs 25,000 from a local moneylender two years ago to get my sister married. He gave me a year's time to repay the amount. I tried hard, but could not pay up. The mahajan threatened me. He even threatened to throw us out of the house.'

'Two months ago, I came across seven men, who were facing similar problems. We got together and decided to rob a bank. The village banks have poor security and it was easy to break in. We decided to move to Bero and hide for a month to dodge the police. We have no money, at present,' he said.

According to the police, several moneylenders in these areas were active throughout the year. 'These moneylenders are mostly shopkeepers. It is a side business for them. They mostly target the rural people, who are in need of money.

'We had arrested four men from Sadauri village in November for looting Rs 1 lakh from a rural bank. But the money was not recovered. In their statement, they said that they were deep in debt. These men are even targeting homes now,' the official added.

Last year, nearly four bank robberies have been recorded in Bero and Burmu areas. In addition, there have been more than eight cases, in which houses were targeted.

Though the police have arrested more than 16 men in connection with these cases, no money has been recovered as yet.

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