Security fears at ATM booth grow in quiet Dhaka | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 29, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:29 AM, March 29, 2020

Security fears at ATM booth grow in quiet Dhaka

The 10-day shutdown that has been imposed to prevent contagious spread of coronavirus induced a sleep-like quiescence on the streets of Dhaka. Both security guards and users of the ATM booths in the capital are feeling the pinch of such an unprecedented emptiness.

Abdul Gani, security guard of an ATM booth in Jatrabari area, told The Daily Star that the eerie calmness was unbearable to him.

"A kind of fear grips me no matter how much I try to divert my mind," the man said who has been protecting the booth for the last five years.

"Many people come here and there is a fear of coronavirus. But I am concerned about security. I am not equipped with weapons. If robbers attack, I will not be able to resist."

Gani was singing a folk song aloud keeping the door of his tiny compartment shut inside the booth when our correspondent talked to him.

"I was trying to sway my evil thoughts," a smiling Gani said.

Against the backdrop of rising Covid-19 cases, the government has announced public holiday from March 26 to April 2 and halted all public transports.

On top of that, the government has repeatedly been requesting people to stay at home. To check public gatherings, the government also deployed law enforcers and army personnel.

At a situation like this, the banks have decided to continue operations for limited hours and suggested clients to use automated teller machine (ATM) and mobile banking services.

Soon after the government declared the public holiday since March 26, a large number of people left the capital, turning the vibrant city into almost a mute city.

"We are used to see empty Dhaka during the Eid vacation. But this time it is different. There is no mass transport on the road," said Al-Amin, a security guard at a booth adjacent to a cinema hall in Farmgate area.

Al-Amin also said that the fear of coronavirus infection coupled with robbery grip him now a days.

The high-ups of the bank he serves to have him instructions to shut the door of his ATM booth after 12:30am.

However, not all banks are operated similarly.

"Our booths remain open all night long," said two security guards of two booths next to Grameenphone center in Farmgate.

Meanwhile, attacks on security guards on ATM booths are no rare phenomena.

In the last August, a security guard of a booth in Gazipur was stabbed to death at night. In August, 2018, police recovered a slit-throat body of a security guard of an ATM booth in Joypurhat town.

In the same year, another security guard of another ATM was found dead in cantonment area in the capital.

Along with the security guards, the clients of the banks are also feeling insecure.

Shahinur Islam, employee of a private company, said, "We are encouraged to use ATM booths but I'm afraid of robbery. What if they [criminals] take advantage of empty roads?"

Shahinur, who lives in Dhaka for about 17 years, said, "I've never seen such Dhaka in these years."

Expressing concern, businessman Kamal Ahmed said, "People are now using masks due to coronavirus. Robbers can take advantage of that [hiding identity wearing masks]."

Sohel Rana, assistant inspector general at Police Headquarters (PHQ), told The Daily Star on Thursday that the usual law enforcement and security duty of police is going on in parallel with the massive activities and awareness campaign on coronavirus issues.

"PHQ has already directed all the field units and made them aware of ensuring regular patrolling and a special coordination cell has also been set up at the PHQ to monitor the activities," he said.

Rana further said that they have been directed to strengthen the regular security patrols across the country so that criminals and law breakers can't take the privilege of this special situation.

While visiting different areas of the capital in last two days, these correspondents found presence of only small numbers of police officials on the streets.

There were barricades in some areas of Dhaka including Gulistan, Motijheel and Kawran Bazar, but there were no police personnel in those check points.

Asked, Shafiqul Islam, commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said there was nothing to worry about as regular police patrolling would be continued.

"There is no people on the streets as we are not allowing anyone to movie without their necessities," he said.

Besides the police patrolling, the army patrol teams are also moving on the streets. So, there is nothing to be worry about, added the police commissioner.

At a campaign programme on Friday, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said law enforcers were alerted to prevent untoward situations like theft and robbery.


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