An incident of a daring robbery at a stone’s throw distance from a police outpost in Durgapur’s posh area City Centre, has virtually shaken the residents of the industrial town.
A gang of eight armed youths raided a businessman’s house barely 150 metres from the City Centre police outpost and took away cash and valuables worth nearly Rs 6 lakh in the early hours of yesterday.
Preliminary investigation by the police has revealed that the robbers were in their early twenties. The gang sneaked into the house after removing the iron grille of a window on the ground floor of the two-storeyed house.
The robbery in a house so near to a police outpost raised questions on security in an upscale Durgapur area considered the business hub of the steel town. Residents of the area that has shopping malls, high-rises and hospitals, stressed the need to raise vigil at night.They also said that they had no idea that a robbery took place in the neighbourhood till later in the day.
At around 2:30 am, the eight-member gang sneaked into the residence of Mr Amit Sharma – who owns a petrol pump in nearby Asansol apart from running a travel agency, a canteen and supplying workforce to several firms in Durgapur.
Mr Sharma, however, was in Kolkata last night and his parents, wife and children were sleeping in different bedrooms on the ground floor, while one maid and her son were sleeping in the drawing room of the house at Ambuja Housing complex.
The maid Poornima Singh heard some noises, and watched in horror as masked intruders entered the room one by one, after dismantling the window grill. Before she could raise an alarm, they gagged her and held her at knife-point. The robbers at first tied Poornima and her son who were sleeping in the drawing room on the ground floor with a bedsheet. While one stood guard, the others went to an adjacent room where Amit’s elderly parents were asleep.
“I was jolted out of sleep and saw a masked man holding a dagger to my throat. He slapped me. There were at least six others behind him, all of whom were carrying some kind of sharp weapons such as knives and choppers. They told me and my wife to hand over whatever cash and ornaments we have at home,” said Bhagwati Prasad Sharma, Amit’s father.
The businessman’s mother, Meena, was punched in the face when she shouted for help. After taking away valuables from the almirah, the gang forced Meena to take them to the first-floor room where Amit’s wife Jyoti was sleeping.
“They told me to call Jyoti by her name so that she opens the door without any suspicion. They barged into the room and forced her to hand over whatever ornaments she was wearing. She also gave them the keys to her almirah,” Amit’s mother said.
The occupants of the two-storeyed house said the youths had fruits and soft drinks kept in the fridge before fleeing with the valuables in a 90-minute robbery. According to the police, the cash, jewellery and electronic goods robbed were estimated at Rs 6 lakh.
The police arrived around 6.30 am. “We have started investigation but we are yet arrest anybody. We will beef up security and patrolling in the area,” said S.S. Murugan, the assistant commissioner of police (east) of Asansol – Durgapur Police Commissionerate, when asked about the robbery in a house 150m from a police outpost. The ACP, Mr Murugan further added: “We have seized a mask left by one the gang members in that house. We have got certain clues from the modus-operandi of the gangsters and are expecting a breakthrough soon.”
The robbery prompted residents of nearby Bengal Ambuja housing colony to question police patrolling at night. “The policemen are more busy making a fast buck harassing ordinary citizens, rather than ensuring safety of residents in City Centre and its adjoining areas,” said a resident of the locality.
Durgapur, one of the fastest growing towns of eastern India is also climbing fast in the crime chart. Time again in recent past deteriorating law and order situation of the city has hit news headlines.