Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, June 30
Even places of worship are not safe from thefts. A thief struck at the Sai Dham temple in Sector 29-A in the wee hours of today and decamped with nearly Rs 7 lakh.
Krishan Kumar, DSP (East), said the theft was committed following a thorough recce. He said the theft seemed to be the handiwork of a person who was aware of the place and the surroundings.
The incident came to light this morning when Shiv and Mukesh, workers of the temple trust, opened the main door of the temple.
“We opened the door around 4.30 am and saw currency notes scattered all over the place. The lock of one of the donation boxes, located on the right side of the Sai idol, was broken and the cash was missing from it,” said Mukesh Kumar.
The employees claimed that soon after learning about the theft, they closed the temple gate and informed the temple trust authorities about the incident.
According to Ashit Manchanda, joint secretary of the temple trust, it is for the first time that the Sai Dham temple has been targeted by thieves. “We have installed 36 CCTV cameras inside the temple to keep a check on pick-pocketing. However, we never thought a thief would strike at the place,” said Manchanda. He said the thief was caught on CCTV cameras installed inside the temple hall.
“The thief, who was wearing a hood jacket, entered the temple premises at 2.54 am. The thief is suspected to have arrived from the rear side of the temple,” said Manchanda. After climbing the wall, the thief walked on the fibre-reinforced roof sheet and reached the window where an air conditioner was installed.
The thief entered the first floor of the temple by cutting the mesh of the window. Soon after entering the temple, the thief covered his face with a gunny bag. He then went on to spray paint on the CCTV cameras and also twisted the camera positions.
The thief then came on the ground floor using an almirah. Soon after reaching the ground floor, he broke open the lock of the donation box placed on the right side of the Sai idol and decamped with the cash lying in it using a gunny bag.
“The thief left the temple through the same route. Workers at the garbage dump located at the rear side witnessed some activity around 3.30 am. They told me that dogs had started barking and they saw two persons fleeing on a bike; one of them was carrying a sack,” said Manchanda.
Asked how he came to know that Rs 7 lakh was stolen, Manchanda said every Sunday, the trust members counted the cash and the collection was between Rs 5 and Rs 7 lakh.
Fingerprint experts visited the temple this morning to collect vital clues. The police are checking the footage of CCTV cameras installed in houses located at the rear side of the temple.
The police are also looking at the mobile dump of the area to get clues.
“One thing is clear. The thief knew about the temple and must have visited it several times before committing the theft,” said Manchanda.
Did thief visit temple on Thursday?
The police have not ruled out the theory that the thief might have visited the temple on Thursday. A large number of devotees visit the temple on Thursday to pay obeisance and offer donations. Police officials said the thief might have been present and kept an eye on the donation box, which received the maximum donations. The thief only broke the lock of the donation box located on the right side of the temple, while the box located on the lift side remained intact. Besides questioning the temple staff, the police have collected details of persons who left their jobs at the temple recently.
Jewellery, smaller currency left untouched
The thief did not lay hands on the jewellery adorning the idol of Sai Baba. According to Asit Manchanda, joint secretary of the temple trust, the gold ornaments on Sai Baba's idol were intact. He said the thief also did not lay his hands on currency of smaller denomination.
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