Ali Daruwala, President of Western India Petrol Dealers' Association, said: "For long, we have been demanding arm licenses for our 350 members, but our demand has been overlooked by the police. Considering the rising price of petrol, pumps will have more cash and given that dealers work on limited margin, very few can afford armed security guards."
On Thursday, Rs 18.33 lakh was stolen from a petrol pump in Thergaon. The theft came to light only in the morning when employees at Pandit Automotive petrol pump found the office in shambles. The pump is owned by Vilas Prabhakar Gavankar.
The police said when the petrol pump was opened last morning by an employee, he found the three cabins broken into, two cupboards damaged and cash stolen. Pump owner Gavankar then informed the police, and fingerprint experts and dog squad were summoned to the spot.
"We generally deposit our cash in the strong room of our sister concern Tata Automotive every day. But on the occasion of Id-E-Milad, there was a public holiday and earnings from two days were kept in the treasury of the petrol pump. We realized that cash was stolen only in the morning," Gavankar said. "We have proper security in place. We have even employed armed guards for the morning shift."
Asked why armed guards were not present at night, he said: "The petrol pump closes early in the night."
Even the police suspect it was the work of someone inside the petrol pump.
"Considering that the thief first took the keys and then opened the treasury where the cash was kept, indicates the person knew the workings of the petrol pump," Police Inspector Nandakishor Bhosale-Patil said.
"We are considering all the angles, and we are questioning the employees and guards at the pump. We are also checking criminals who have a history of breaking into houses."
About the demand for arm licenses, Assistant Commissioner of Police Prabhakar Patil said: "We cannot give arm licenses to all, just because they are members of the Petrol Dealers' Association. Each application for license is treated on its merit. Also, we came to know that there were four guards and one supervisor at the pump during the night. If they had done their job, the theft would not have occurred. Besides, the person who owns an arm should be present at the pump all the time. Instead, they should appoint alert armed guards and install security gadgets."