In your interest.
Online Personal Finance Magazine
No beating about the bush.
The issue of fake currency notes coming out of ATMs is very real. What can be done? Here are some suggestions
Most ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) in India simply dispense cash, but increasingly are being readied for a host of other functions and capabilities, so the risk increases. According to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) the ATM machines should:
Is this objective met? Not really.
There are two broad ways in which currency notes are stuffed into ATMs in India. One, by the bank staff themselves, usually for the 'onsite' machines. Two, by specific agencies which do the stuffing- often as common carriers for multiple banks. I have worked in many aspects of the ATM industry and my sources tell me:
1) None of the banks in India, currency chests or agencies have facilities for 100% verification at all stages of currency notes headed for ATMs-except for some very specific marked ATMs which are located in VVIP locations. Yes, this is being corrected, but the speed of growth of ATMs is also high.
2) The chances of genuine cash sent by the banks directly from the cash chest/teller being swapped for counterfeit notes is not so high for onsite ATMs. However, it does exist as a higher risk for off-site ATMs, as well as for ATMs stuffed by agencies. The arrival of 'white' ATMs will further muddy the waters.
3) The global concept and practice of sending only pre-stuffed and sealed 'cassettes' for insertion into the larger 'cartridges' for the dispensers and then to be placed inside the 'vault' of ATMs is being resisted by banks and agencies in India. These pre-sealed 'cassettes' provide physical security by 'neutralising' currency notes in case of physical attacks and also provide note-by-note accountability in case of transactional lacunae.
What would we, as consumers of currency notes, really want and deserve? After all, the issue of FICN/counterfeit currency notes is very real, and at the very least, some steps have to be taken to protect us, assuming that almost all ATM transactions are for consumers who not in the fake money business. Here are some simple steps which need to be taken, and which we should demand:
1) All ATMs in India need to be provided with a centralised RBI reference number, and this must be displayed prominently at the location, as well as on the ATM and also on the paper trail.
2) All ATMs must indicate whether they are "sealed cassette stuffed" or "loose stuffed".
3) Performance of ATMs-failed transactions, disputed transactions, down-times, frequency of FICN and similar data must be available online.
4) ATMs can then be provided either 'star' rating or percentile performance rating, which needs to also be displayed on the ATM.
5) Most importantly, the ATM must indicate whether it is providing 100% authentic currency notes or not, and by what method.
6) Certain other safeguards, like silent alarm provision as well as provision of a 'cover' on the key-pad, need to be incorporated too.
7) Disabled access is another issue which needs to be resolved.
There are more too, but these are the least we can expect. After all, we are customers worth Rs4 lakh a day-a fairly heavy turnover under any circumstances for 9 square metres of real estate.
A bank is not doing a customer a big favour by providing an ATM; it is actually doing itself a favour primarily by reducing the cost and effort of human interaction. In exchange, a customer must know what level of service to expect, and RBI needs to enforce this. Today's customer is very aware of what is going on and is willing to pay a premium for better and more reliable service. The earlier this is done, and certainly before the introduction of "white ATMs", the better.
(Veeresh Malik had a long career in the Merchant Navy, which he left in 1983. He has qualifications in ship-broking and chartering, loves to travel, and has been in print and electronic media for over two decades. After starting and selling a couple of companies, is now back to his first love-writing.)
RTI applications have jumped by a lakh in Maharashtra compared to 2010 with the urban development department receiving the highest number of applications, according to the 6th annual report of Maharashtra State Information Commission
The sixth annual report of the Maharashtra State Information Commission, portraying the scenario of the Right to Information (RTI) activities in Maharashtra is out and Moneylife has procured a copy of the same. The picture is indeed hunk- dory in this 111 page report as against the ground reality where the RTI movement in Maharashtra has suffered immensely due to state government’s neglect in appointing the full quorum of information commissioners and reluctance to provide full-fledged staff to the information commissions for the smooth and efficient disposal of second appeals.
That the citizens of Maharashtra continue to be enthusiastic about using RTI is expressed through the 6,45,023 RTI applications which were filed in 2011 alone. Out of these, 6,07,057 were disposed off. There has been an increase in filing RTI applications by nearly 1 lakh as compared to 2010 when 5,48,987 application were filed. Ever since the implementation of the RTI Act in 2005, Maharashtra has seen a six-fold increase in RTI applications. In 2006 the RTI applications number 1,23,000.
Clearly, the issue of unbridled and “illegal” development in terms of urban constructions weighs heavily on peoples’ minds. This has been reflected in the highest number of RTI applications having been received by the urban development department in 2011— a whopping 1,89,01 lakh applications. This is followed by the revenue department (land scams, land title records, etc that affect thousands of people) which received 92,009 applications. This is followed by the home department: 58,655 RTI applications; rural development: 49,647 and law and judiciary: 42,850. Other departments which received applications between 18,000 and 28,000 are home department; building department; co-operative, marketing and textile department; industrial, energy and labour department and; school education and sports department.
It was a dismal state of affairs with several posts of information commissioners having remained vacant (still vacant) and additional responsibility given to the existing ones. The annual report notes that despite this paucity, 16,211 decisions were given out of the 22,339 second appeals all the state information commissions put together. The report adds: “In 2010, the number of second appeals was 17,266 and despite there being a dearth of information commissioners, it is satisfying to note that decisions were made on 16,211 second appeals.” The state chief information commission’s office in the Mantralaya received 5,653 complaints out of which 4,436 complaints were solved.
Vijay Kumbhar, a leading RTI activist, counters the hunk- dory picture painted by the state information commission in the annual report. He says that, “penalty has been imposed on 459 PIOs (public information officers) but what action has the information commission done to ensure the recovery of the nearly Rs45 lakh penalty? What about the second appeals that have not been disposed off? Maharashtra, which is on the brink of collapse as far as RTI is concerned, is not reflected in the annual report.”
No of RTI applications filed over the last six years
2006 – 1,23,000
2007 – 3,16,00
2008 – 4,16,090
2009 – 4,40,728
2010 – 5,48,987
2011 – 6,45,023
Total – 24,89,828
Major departments which received RTI applications:
Urban development: 1,89,017
Revenue and forest: 92,009
Rural and irrigation: 49,647
Law and judiciary: 42,850
Housing development: 25,686
General building: 22,830
Co-operative, marketing and textile: 18,968
Industrial, energy and labour: 18,727
School education and sports: 18,462
Not happy with first appeal and therefore filed second appeal:
Pending from previous years: 12,866
Second appeals of 2011: 22,339
Total complaints: 35,205
Disposed off in 2011: 16,211
Unhappy with the PIO and therefore filed second appeal:
Pending from previous years: 2671
Second appeals of 2011: 5656
Total complaints: 8326
Disposed off in 2011: 4436
Penalty imposed on PIOs at State Information commissions
No of PIOs penalised: 459
Amount of penalty imposed: Rs44,42, 750
(Vinita Deshmukh is the editor of Life 365 (www.life365.in). She is also the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte. She can be reached at [email protected])
Anoop Awasthi, a formal naval officer and well known RTI activist has asked a series of questions related to the defence land and expenditures incurred on the “special repairs” of bungalow no 26A and 38, where the Presidential palace was coming up
Following the persistent agitation by the three intrepid activists, and supported by several exclusive articles by Vinita Deshmukh in Moneylife, the President of India Pratibha Patil agreed to give up the land on which she was building a palatial post retirement bungalow. However, there are many questions unanswered like who would bear the cost of demolishing the existing bungalow and constructing a new one. Right to Information (RTI) activists have already started filing applications seeking more details in the land grab case.
Anoop Awasthi, a formal naval officer and well known RTI activist (who was the one who procured vital documents under RTI) has asked a series of questions that could further nail the President. Mr Awasthi served as a naval officer (JCO rank) for 15 years. A tenacious RTI activist, Mr Awasthi had also fought a silent battle in the Lavasa campaign.
In his latest RTI applications, Mr Awasthi has asked the Command Works Engineer (CWE-Kirkee) Khadki and the Defence Estate Officer a series of question related with the defence land and expenditures incurred on the “special repairs” of bungalow no 26A and 38, where the Presidential palace was coming up.
He has asked the following questions:
1. Details of defence lands that have been converted into free hold in the last 20 years along with authority for the same.
2. Details of A1 lands on which encroachments have occurred and action taken against such encroachments.
3. Details of defence lands (A1 to C) under your holding where commercial activity is going on.
4. Details of action initiated against owners of such lands.
5. Details of resumption notices issued to grant property owners for various violations of provisions of the grant including like illegal construction, etc.
6. Details of sites licensed for advertisement hoardings on defence lands and details of revenue earned from such licenses for the last five years and the account under which these funds have been accounted for.
7. Details of reclassification of land done in the last 15 years and reasons for doing the same.
8. Details of transfer/disposal of surplus camping ground/abandoned air fields. Full details of defence land declared surplus in the last 20 years.
9. Details of grant of fresh leases in the last 30 years with details and authority for the same.
In a related RTI, Mr Awasthi has asked the following queries to the Public Information Officer, Command Works Engineer (CWE-Kirkee) Khadki, Pune
1. Details of expenditure incurred till 27 April 2012 on the special repairs to the bungalow no 26A and 38.
2. Copy of photographs showing existence of the building for which special repairs were sanctioned
3. Copy of the sanction order for special repairs to bungalow no 26A and 38 and name of the contractors
4. Date on which the special repairs to the residential premises for the president was completed or stopped.
5. Details of the proposed adjustment of the expenditure incurred and its final settlement.