The brutal attack on a woman by a machete-wielding robber at an ATM in Bangalore has once again exposed the absence of security measures at the kiosks and the consequent risks that bank consumers are exposed to. It also underscores the failure of the banking regulator to draw up stringent standards for safety and security at ATMs and strictly enforce them.
So much so that a young law student in Madurai has now approached a bench of the Madras High Court seeking a direction to all banks to ensure adequate safety measures at ATMs. All ATMs should be equipped with burglar alarms and sensors, linking them to the nearest police station and the bank branch, closed-circuit television cameras and trained security guards aged below 45 years, the petition says. The high court has in response ordered issuance of notices to the RBI and the Union finance secretary.
RBI figures show that there are 121,847 ATMs (as on June 30, 2013) in the country. It’s anybody’s guess about how many of these ATMs have security guards. Police in several cities around the country have asked banks to close existing loopholes in security of the kiosks. In Chennai, for example, the police have pointed out that 40% of the 4,200 ATMs in the city do not have the required security measures, while in Bangalore, the number of ATMs without security guards is estimated to be over 600 (of a total of 2,580)
Banks grumble about the recurring cost of hiring security guards, but how much does it cost to have an alarm or a surveillance camera in the ATM connected to the police station? Or, for that matter, secure doors that do not allow anyone but card holders to enter the kiosks and can only be unlocked from the inside? How is it that even these simple precautions are not taken by banks?
Banks can no longer compromise on ATM security at the cost of their customers’ safety and well-being. They must take all necessary steps to ensure that ATMs are secure in all respects so that consumers can use them without the fear of being waylaid by a robber. And this includes a well-trained security guard capable of and equipped to handle emergencies. The very advantage of ATMs would be defeated if consumers become apprehensive about using them.
Vinod Kumar Bhasin: I am a 72-year-old man suffering from Parkinson’s disease. On May 13, I went to the ATM closest to my home. I tried twice to withdraw Rs. 3,000 and got no money or receipt. Since I was in need of money to purchase medicines, I tried again and this time keyed in Rs. 5,000. To my surprise, I got the money. I even met the lady executive at the bank branch next to the ATM and informed her about the problem. However, to my utter shock, I found that Rs. 6,000 had been debited from my account. After weeks of complaining and following it up with the bank, I am now told that the disputed transaction is a successful withdrawal. I have been a customer of the bank for several years and my pension also gets credited to an account in this bank and I am saddened by their response.
Answer: Please lodge a formal complaint with the Banking Ombudsman. You can file the complaint online. However, before doing so, send a complaint to the nodal office of the bank as that is a mandatory pre-requisite. If he does not resolve your complaint, seek the help of the Ombudsman. You can file the complaint online (at www. bankingombudsman.rbi.org.in).