Entering one of the kiosks in many parts of the temple town makes one wonder whether it is a railway reservation counter or a bank ATM kiosk. A long queue waits inside the ATM centre and even if some one prefers to wait for his turn, he would be forced to go inside as the customers literally push you inside.
This is the situation of unmanned ATM centres in the temple town leaving the customers in grave danger of either an attack or becoming a prey to cyber crime by way of losing your PIN to some person standing right behind you and stealing a glance at the keyboard over your shoulder.
At a place like Tirupati, which is always abuzz with pilgrims, the unmanned ATM centres stand as sitting ducks for any offender. ATMs at railway stations and bus stands and some other locations in the town do have security guards but the situation is not the same at other places making the customers, particularly women and the elderly, vulnerable to being attacked by an offender.
Even at places where guards are posted, they are the ones who just confine to ask a person to wait outside the kiosk while another person is inside transacting some business. But if asked whether the guard can defend himself in case of an attack, the answer would be negative. For example, this 52-year security guard (name not disclosed) stands at the Shankarambadi Road admits that his age is not right to be engaged as a security guard. “But, I have to feed my family. And moreover, what will my company give me if I fight heroically in case of an attack?’’ he retorts. Another guard, Subramaniyam, says that they not only face threat from burglars but also from drunkards.
‘’Often, late in the nights, drunk people visit ATMs sometimes and even if they pick an argument with us, we just keep quiet. We are helpless at such times,’’ he says. A few months back, a security guard was killed in an ATM near AIR Bypass Road in Tirupati. A security guard recalls that the company which hired them or the security agency did not even come forward to extend some help for cremation. “If that is the situation, why should we dare challenge an intruder or attacker?’’ he asks.
Security agencies say that a guard need not retaliate in case of an attack but can get away from the spot and inform the nearest police station. V Amarnath, executive director of Agile Security Agencies, says that guards working in their organisation have all the facilities like Provident Fund, ESI and life insurance. “Agile has given a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the one who have died on duty,” he claims. Training classes are held for newly-recruited guards over a period of two weeks and also refresher classes every six months, he says.
Some bankers say their policies clearly state that there is no need to appoint a security guard at ATM kiosks within city or town limits. TVS Ramakrishnarjee, manager of Ramanuja Circle SBI branch, says, “We forwarded a proposal to higher authorities for appointment of a security guard for the safety of money and customers as well. It is a threat to the lives of guards and employees if any attack takes place.”
There are some banks which are targeted by burglars and some thieves have successfully been chased. Sharing their personal experience, bank managers say that they have decided to amend some new policies for the appointment of security personnel without fail.
Capt D Bhaskar, chief manager (security) of Andhra Bank, says that the bank’s security guard is provided with single-barrel and double-barrel shot guns to ensure the security of the bank. “Non-prohibitive weapons are given to the guards under IPC Sections 96 to 106 which allow the guard to ‘kill or injure’ a person of equal strength. But the main aim of these sections is to immobilise rather than kill first. This law is applicable to the common man too,” he explains.
For example, in the recent Bangalore case, if a normal citizen witnessing the incident can immobilise the culprit and, if needed, can kill or injure him, he explained.
But ATM security guards are not provided with the same weapon since the maximum limit to draw money from an ATM is not more than Rs 40,000. Stealing of that amount, considered low, may not be justifiable for killing a person (attacker or robber). But firing may be necessary if a robbery or attack takes place in a bank where huge amounts of money are deposited or withdrawn, he explains further.