“Last week, I visited an ATM centre on the by-pass road… After withdrawing Rs.18,500, when I went to a nearby bank branch to deposit Rs.6,000 in my friend’s savings bank account, I had a shock. The cashier at the counter destroyed five currency notes (all in Rs.500 denomination) stating that they were counterfeit ones and that it was a criminal offence to possess them…”
Refusing to accept the cashier’s explanation, the young customer got into a wordy altercation with the bank staff: “Who will replace me with the cash destroyed by the cashier… For no fault of mine, why should I lose my hard-earned money. Where do I complain about the act of the cashier…” he went on arguing in the branch with literally no help coming in from any side. In a frustrated state, he left the premises.
When The Hindu learnt about this and asked a senior bank official, he said in private, “The problem encountered by the customer was not something unusual… It’s becoming common these days. There are many loose ends and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is aware of all such matters. We have clear instructions to destroy fake notes when found and prevent them from being circulated.”
With the rise in use of ATMs, the problems arising out of such a facility also seem to be increasing and sometimes alarming too due to various factors, admit police officials.
In a tier-II city like Madurai, where there are around 200 ATMs within the city limits installed by both public and private sector banks, the number of users is burgeoning.
According to bankers, having knowledge about functioning of these kiosks, depending on the location of the ATMs, the number of hits (usage by customers) ranges between 200 and 1,200 per day. Normally, during the first 10 days of a month, the hits are high and it dwindles during the month-end.
S. Sampath of Transport Nagar, situated off the Ring Road here, said that even after the Bangalore incident, where a Corporation Bank woman employee was attacked by a robber, security issues have not been addressed by bankers.
Despite so much of din being raised by the public and warnings from the police, when banks don’t seem to redress the grievances, they can at least shut down stand-alone ATMs in remote locations during night and keep those outlets near bus stands, railway stations and hospitals open round-the-clock, he suggested. By doing so, ATM users can have safety.
Samson, an executive working for a wholesale pharmaceutical company on West Masi Street and who uses ATM regularly, says that fragile looking and aged persons were posted as security guards by many banks. Many had ailments and were unable to bear the air-conditioner facility inside the ATM, while mosquito menace outside the kiosk made matters worse, he pointed out.
After a watchman was murdered in an SBI ATM outlet near Vadipatti here, many had apprehensions about joining as a security guard as they were paid meagre salary. In such a situation, customers, especially, women should avoid using stand-alone ATMs at night, he underlined.
B. Saravanan, deputy manager, State Bank of India, said that the SBI, which has the largest number of ATMs here, has security guards in its kiosks. “We regularly keep track of the visitors/customers using the ATM through cameras. Public awareness programmes are being held at regular intervals on safety aspects by the bank,” he noted.
A senior police officer said that but for a few banks, several banks were uncooperative and this often led to chaos. Even after repeated pleas, the absence of camera and other gadgets in a bank here had resulted in a robber decamping with Rs.10 lakh.
“For the sake of record purposes, a case has been booked against the bank official for negligence, but the fact remains that the money is lost,” the officer summed up.
Regarding circulation of fake currency, sources said that the problem arose because a majority of the banks had outsourced the ATM operations with private agencies. Thus, there is no accountability.