PUNE: High-resolution closed circuit television cameras (CCTV), round-the-clock guards and attendants, transparent glass panes and emergency alarm systems are just some of the measures banks in the city claim to be taking to improve the security of their ATMs. Customer experience, however, has remained largely unchanged as they find the security at ATMs much the same as it was earlier.
More than a month after a woman was brutally attacked in the morning by a machete-wielding man inside a bank ATM in Bangalore, city-based bank officials TOI spoke to admitted that the case had shaken up the fraternity. Some also said that their attitude towards setting up ATMs had shifted from just looking at the cost factor, to focusing more on the security issues involved, and that they were willing to follow the lead taken by the police to ensure safety of customers.
While they maintained they have always provided attendants at all kiosks, banks say they are now going to strictly comply with the security guidelines the city police issues to them regarding ATM operations.
Bharat Kumar, general manager (planning) at Bank of Maharashtra said they were already taking multiple steps to improve security. "We are following all guidelines and have carried out surprise inspection at all our ATMs across the country. Besides fixing essential issues pertaining to adequate lighting, CCTV recordings, fixing of cash-vending machines to the ground, fire extinguishers and even ensuring presence of security guards at all times, we are also testing a new centralized security system that links all our ATMs to our head office. Successfully done, we plan to connect the system to the nearest police stations as well. We are also planning to install a new variety of shutters at our ATM kiosks which get locked once they are rolled up. This will further reduce the chances of mishaps," he said.
Kumar, however, insisted that there was a perceptional difference between the banks and the police regarding responsibility for security. "An ATM is a public facility that the bank is providing free of cost for citizens in the city. The city police, which are responsible for security of the citizens, must ensure that these facilities and their users also remain safe. In that sense, the action taken by the police and the guidelines issued by them have definitely provided the necessary impetus for improving security," he said.
"We are going to adhere to all that the police recommend for banks and their establishments. Compliance has already begun and we are reviewing the on-ground situation at our ATMs. Steps like removal of advertisements and printed screens from glass panes have been initiated, as has the installation of panic button and hooter systems at all kiosks," said the spokesperson of a private sector bank who did not wish to be named.
Such claims notwithstanding, bank customers said they have seen precious little change in the security arrangement of the ATMs they visit. "There is usually a guard at the ATM I visit in Sahakar Nagar to withdraw money, but he is not always there. I have never seen any substitute either to fill up for the guard when he leaves the ATM," says Sunita Huge, a homemaker. Another resident of Pimple Gurav said the ATM in his area never had a guard, and doesn't have one even now after the Bangalore incident. A college student at F C Road said she has never seen a guard at the ATM she visits, and no guard has been posted in the last month.
Banks haven't sought much help from the police either, say police officials. Pune police commissioner Gulabrao Pol told TOI that while the police were ready to give weapon licenses to banks for their guards, banks have not shown any interest in the same. "We have got a very poor response from the banks. We have not yet received a single application from them for the weapons license," Pol said.
He said that the police had called the meeting of bank officers in November and had assured them to give licenses on priority. "We will issue the weapon license in the name of the bank managers. We will issue the licenses within eight days," he said.
Police had already intensified patrolling in all parts of the city and were checking ATMs during their patrolling, Pol added.