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Termites feast on trader's money

7 April 08 11:52 GMT
By Amarnath Tewary
Patna

A trader in the Indian state of Bihar has lost his life savings after termites infesting his bank's safe deposit boxes ate them up.

Dwarika Prasad had deposited currency notes and investment papers worth hundreds of thousands of rupees in a bank safe in the state capital Patna.

The bank says it put up a notice warning customers of the termites.

Mr Prasad says he did not see it in time as he did not go to the bank for months after the notice went up.

Bank officials admit they did not inform the customers individually about the termite problem.

'Shattered'

"I'm shattered. I do not know what to do as I had kept the money for my old age," Mr Prasad said.

The trader says he had deposited 450,000 rupees ($11,000) in currency notes, investment papers worth 232,000 rupees ($5,660) and some gold and silver jewellery in a safe deposit box of the government-owned Central Bank of India.

Mr Prasad says that relations with his wife and children were strained and he wanted to put the money in the safe box to keep it safe from them.

He started using the safe box in September 2005.

He says when he opened it on 29 January, there was nothing in the safe except termite dust and remains of currency notes and that his investment papers were "badly perforated".

The white ants did not even spare the ornaments and their sheen has vanished, he says.

"I wrote to the head office of the Central Bank of India and the regional offices of the Reserve Bank of India," Mr Prasad says. "Even after two months, I'm waiting for a response from them."

'Not liable'

Bank authorities say they put up a notice, dated 8 May 2007, outside the locker room warning customers about the termite infestation.

They advised customers to remove their documents and papers from their safe.

"We received a few complaints of termites in safe deposit boxes so after putting on the notice, we got pesticides sprayed in the bank," said bank manager YP Saha.

Mr Saha says the customer cannot blame the bank because he did not find his locker broken or damaged.

"The bank is not liable for the deposits kept inside the safe as it is only when a locker is found broken that the bank is answerable," he said.

Bank authorities say they have forwarded Mr Prasad's complaint to higher authorities but they say he is not entitled to any compensation for his loss.

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