Monday, January 7, 2008

How safe are the banks?

The carefully planned robbery at the Chelambra branch of the South Malabar Grameen Bank has raised question on the lapses in the security system of the banks. One has to think how safe is to keep money and other valuable items in the banks in the state, particularly in regional, cooperative, private and other financial institutions such as the Kerala State Financial Enterprises?

This type of robbery is one of the most shocking organised looting in the history of the state and an eye-opener to the serious lapses in the security system in many banks. This has also brought to light the poor measures being followed in safeguarding gold and cash in most of the medium and small-scale financial institutions in the state.

Though some of the leading private banks are already having state-of-the-art security systems, but some of the government-owned financial institutions and private money lending firms are having very weak security arrangements.

Kerala State Financial Enterprises having about 270 branches is run by state. All sorts of banking activities are carried. Only 50 branches have a strong room and the other branches are equipped only with lockers.

Security alarms have been installed only in three or four branches, which are also not in proper working condition. According to high sources at the KSFE there is no security personnel at any of the branches.

The Muthoot Fin Corp another big financial institute have strong rooms built according to RBI norms in all its 510 branches. All the branches also have security alarms systems and round-the-clock security personnel.

According to its Chief Security Officer Abraham Koshy the bank is at the present planning to install 24-hour video surveillance system at all the branches.

The senior manager of the bank Sasikumar of the State Cooperative Bank told that the bank is having a fool proof security system with strong rooms constructed as per RBI specifications and security alarms in all its branches.

A safe-locker is the only security measure being used by most of the private banks (money lenders) which also do brisk business. However, many banks have insurance protection, an extensive portion of the transactions is done off the records to evade tax and otherwise it would not get insurance coverage.

RBI has specified various security measures for all financial and banking institutions, even specified the composition of the mixture used for constructing of strong rooms and thickness of the walls including the bottom and roof.

But there is no proper mechanism to ensure that these norms are followed. Every major bank has security committees which constantly evaluate the security measures.

According to specialists of the field, security systems can be installed at a cost ranging from Rs 7,000 to Rs 30,000 depending upon the features.

Now day’s various advance security system are like intrusion sensors, door sensors, glass break sensors, movement sensors and video recorders are available.

Auto-dealer facility capable of making telephone calls to specified telephone numbers and conveying the pre-programmed messages are also common features of the security systems.

In auto-dealer usually the phone numbers of nearby police stations and bank officials will be specified in the system so that they are alerted immediately on the event of any robbery attempts, said John Kuriakose who is a dealer of security systems.

He said the security systems work on inbuilt batteries so that it will work even in case of power failure. More over, the alarm would sound even if there is any attempt to tamper it, he said.

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