In spite of thefts at Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) becoming a worryingly regular occurrence, security remains a matter of concern in the region.
After more than Rs. 23 lakh were stolen from two ATMs in Hoshiapur on Wednesday, HT decided to do a reality check and we discovered that in spite of the recent incidents, security remains lax in both urban and rural areas and authorities are also promising nothing, except harping on getting more security guards etc.
In fact, fear seems to be taking hold with some bank authorities contemplating putting the minimum amount of cash in the machines, instead of being proactive and finding a permanent solution to the problem.
The HT reality check found that in most booths, the swap system of opening of doors by the debit card itself was non-functional, perhaps an exhibition of the lax attitude of the authorities.
An official of a nationalised bank, on condition of anonymity, admitted that restricted entry to an ATM was the first and an important step, but was being ignored.
"The electronic facility of allowing entry in to booth by swiping the card at door helps record the identity of the person who is trying to enter the booth. In the absence of such an system anybody can enter," he said.
As a second measure, not a single ATM booth in the region has an anti-theft alarm to alert the police or bank authorities in case there is any attempt to break the machine. This makes the work of burglars far too easy.
As a saving grace, ATMs within the city limits have security guards. Some deploy guards during the night, while some do have 24-hour deployment of security. However, ATMs in rural areas are being ignored and carry minimal security.
Bathinda SSP Gurpreet Singh Bhullar said he had sounded an alert. "Probably, a gang of ATM operators is operative. To check these security arrangements, we used to have regular meetings with bank officials. We are also laying stress on night patrolling to put a check on such elements," he said.
HOW SAFE ARE THE ATMs
Union Bank of India (UBI) ATM in Guru Govind Singh Nagar:
No security guard is posted, even as a burglary attempt was made at the State Bank of India (SBI) ATM in nearby Bank Colony four months ago. CCTV cameras exist, but no theft alarm in place. There is no facility of using swipe card to allow entry into the booth.
State Bank of India: Bank Colony
A guard posted after the theft attempt. CCTV Cameras are working. No theft alarm in place and no electronic swapping system at door to check entry of people.
Central Bank of India: Goniana Mandi
No security guard in place even as thieves tried to strike at SBI ATM in the market few days ago. CCTV cameras are working but no theft alarm or electronic card swapping system at door.
SBI: Goniana Mandi
Nahianwala police station SHO Jaspal Singh said that they had received a report that about 15 days back, an attempt had been made to break the machine. However, there is still no security guard at the booth and bank authorities and private agencies hired by the bank have been blaming each other for the non-deployment of a security guard here.
Axis Bank ATM at Bibwala Chowk:
Security guard is in place and CCTV cameras are working. However, no electronic card swapping system in place.
Oriental Bank of Commerce: Bibiwala Chowk
Security guard posted and CCTV cameras are functional. However, there is no theft alarm and card swapping system.
Major incidents of thefts in ATMs in district this year
JUNE 13 Rs. 11 lakh stolen from State Bank of Patiala (SBoP) ATM at Bhagata Bhai.
APRIL 4 Rs. 1.5 lakh from ATM Model Town area.
February 22 Rs. 7 lakh from a Punjab National Bank ATM