A routine power cut that was effected to prevent electrocution of residents during rains almost gave a gang an opportunity to rob an Automated Teller Machine (ATM). The incident took place at the SBI facility on Kamaraj Salai in Manali on late Sunday night.

The incident came to light on Monday morning when K. Shankar, who runs a teashop opposite the ATM, alerted the Manali police after a customer told him he had been unable to withdraw money. A team of policemen led by M. Balamurugan, inspector (Law & Order), Manali police, inspected the crime scene and took fingerprints. “The gang managed to open the upper part of the device, including the printing machine and display screen. But, they were unable to open the rack where cash was kept. So, they might have abandoned the machine. The ATM had around Rs 8 lakh at the time of the incident,” said a police officer.

The last recorded withdrawal of money from the machine was at 10 p.m. on Sunday. A power cut around that time led to CCTV cameras inside the kiosk and the machine’s inbuilt camera failing to capture the faces of the suspects as it was dark. Incidentally, the ATM kiosk did not have a security guard whereas a couple of ATM centres along the stretch have guards posted round-the-clock.

SBI officials said the money was stored safely. “The money in the ATM is stored in cassettes that are protected by secret codes entered by bank officials and security agencies,” a bank official said. However, police officers said the bank should have taken more care, and posted security guards at the ATM centre besides installing a diesel generator for illumination and the maintenance of the centre during emergencies including power cuts. A case under section 511 of IPC has been registered by Manali police.

Would-be robbers, police said, have now unsuccessfully tried to break open ATMs and steal money at least a dozen times in the past four months.

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