The Bank Heist
By Maxwell Pereira
mfjpkamath@gmail.com

The manner in which the bank heist in Delhi’s Vikaspuri was executed on May 08 takes me back to 1985 when perhaps the general scenario concerning bank robberies was somewhat similarly ridiculous. I was DCP/South responsible for policing an area which then spanned today’s south district and most of south-west. The bane of district policing, bank robberies were then not uncommon, and alongside attacks on wine-shops and petrol-pumps, provided the regular media sensation as did the odd domestic servant related gruesome murder which mostly targeted senior citizens.

Preventing bank robberies was an important target area. In the exercise, the key factor zeroed in on was the total lack of concern on the part of the bank staff whose attitude to such lootings and robberies was found apathetic. They would point blank tell us that instructions to bank staff was to hand over the cash without resistance or effort to prevent the heist. For security at best there used to be a decrepit old guard, armed if at all with an antique .12 bore – both of which more often than not defective operationally and functionally.

So it was left entirely to the police initiative, who were expected through limited resources to be omni-present at every bank premises – to predict and prevent a heist before it happened, and when it did to be jadoogars and detect the case quickly and recover the loot.

It was then that the police evolved elaborate measures and modalities to attempt at prevention – making the beat constable more proactive by visiting and inspecting security measures at each bank, sensitizing the staff, alerting the guard, etc. Also by getting the banks to install hidden alarms to be triggered by emergency switches readily accessible to the manager/ cashier. Services of the PCR also requisitioned, to do similar rounds within each vehicle’s beat to check and ensure expected security measures at the bank.

Regular meetings with bank managers were organized at the sub-divisional or the district DCP level to enlist their cooperation. When this was found wanting or not forthcoming, we enlisted the cooperation of the media to point accusing fingers at bank managements, much to their discomfort and that of the banking ministry at the centre. No one liked it when the police were quoted in the press saying that their apathetic attitude and reliance on insurance to take care of financial adversities resulting from such lootings were directly affecting the the national exchequer. I even found myself a persona-non-grata when the then banking minister when put in a tight spot in parliament over this issue publicly castigated me as a big mouth exceeding his brief. It would be naive of me to even suggest I was not walking the tight rope here, but suffice it to say that as a result of all the field efforts at preventive policing against bank robberies and the media campaign enlisted, we were soon flying the flag, the battle against bank robberies having been won in toto. Much at the risk of my claim irking fellow colleagues of the time, south district police’s efforts in this line did give us the opportunity soon to boast proudly at the end of 1986 that for the first time we saw through a whole calendar year without a single bank robbery!

In the two decades that followed, Delhi Police capabilities have grown by leaps and bounds – branding it a force par excellence whose preventive and detective standards second to none in the world. There is much sophistication in place in terms of scientific policing methodologies, technology application and use of modern equipment and policing aids. Electronic surveillance is the order of the day – both unobtrusive and obtrusive, the use of video cameras and CCTV being just an expected part of it. And in this period the gamut of bank security has also evolved manifold with the regular and ever-monitoring-for-assessment-and-improvement deliberations between all stake-holders – within the banking industry, the ministries and the law and order agencies.

Against this background, the UTI bank heist of May 08 is incredulously jarring to the senses. How can a youth just walk into a bank, claim he has explosives strapped to his body, and then walk out with a cool Rs.40 lakh? A re-enactment and analysis of the claimed scenario throws up many an unanswered question, making the manager’s role suspect. Why did he not activate the alarm switch available right beneath his desk? Is it normal for any responsible person in his position to panic at the mere claim of a human bomb just by showing a pair of wires?

Then the utterly abnormal behaviour in calling for the cashier, accompanying him to the vault, then returning to his chamber where the ‘human-bomb’ has been left on his own all through, asking the money to be brought there, then getting two other hands to help fill the bundles into bags and getting them to assist the miscreant to take these bags out of the bank. Personally escorting them up to the door, not alerting the guard at the vault nor those at the bank entrance even when throughout the claimed sequence of events there was ample opportunity to raise alarm without any personal harm! Totally ridiculous!

Obviously there is more than meets the eye. And even if ultimately it turns out the police are unable to disprove the manager’s version, and his claim is true rendering him a dumbo, I ask the UTI authorities and management: Is this the type of managers in whose hands you entrust public money?

May 09, 2006: 900 words: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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