The last three years have been pretty good for bank robbers – at least according to statistics revealed by the Minister of State for Finance, Santosh Kumar Gangwar, in the parliament this week. According to Gangwar’s written reply, banks in India have lost around Rs. 180 crore in the past three years to thefts. The money was stolen in 2,632 incidents of theft, robbery, dacoity, and burglary at 51 banks during the same period (April 2014-March 2017).
The answer came in response to a question regarding negligence shown by banks in complying with security norms for protecting bank lockers. The finance ministry had been asked “whether banks are showing negligence in complying with rules/norms for appointing security guards in banks and the experts have indicated that the various culprits are taking advantage of security lapses in committing theft from bank lockers”.
While the ministry didn’t clarify if the government is carrying out any assessment to check bank negligence, it’s answer stated that the “Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has informed that banks have been advised to review and strengthen the security arrangement in their branches and ATMs from time to time”. The answer further clarified that thefts exclusively from lockers are not reported to the RBI.
However, the ministry did spell out the number of such thefts reported by banks. A total of 51 banks of around 100 commercial banks or nearly 50 percent of all banks in the country have reported thefts and burglaries in the last three years – which is in itself a shocking number.
The State Bank of India, with over 18,000 offices and over 50,000 ATMs currently, reported the most number of thefts in each financial year, except in 2016-17, when Bandhan Bank Ltd. reported 283 such incidents. With a total of 337 incidents, Bandhan Bank Ltd. saw the most number of robberies in the past three years, followed closely by the State Bank of India.
However, it is Axis Bank Ltd. that lost the most money to such thefts. Over Rs. 37 crore was stolen from the private sector bank in the three years, with the bank losing on an average Rs. 50.46 lakh in every incident. Seventy four incidents of thefts, robberies, etc. took place at the branches, ATMs, and other premises of the bank between 2014 and 2017.
While a better assessment of a bank’s security arrangements can be made only after a comprehensive evaluation keeping in mind the risks involved, the numbers do provide a fair assessment about just how vulnerable the banks are. The American Express Banking Corporation saw the most number of such incidents per office or ATM on an average. The foreign bank, which has only two offices in India, saw two incidents in the past three years, losing a total of Rs. 40,000. The only office of the Bank of America, National Association, saw five incidents between 2014-2017, losing Rs.1.02 lakh.
Responding to another question regarding safety of lockers, Gangwar told the parliament that “there is no specific circular asking banks to compensate customers for theft of articles from bank lockers”. “Nevertheless banks have been advised by RBI that it would be the responsibility of the banks to ensure that the lockers remain safe and there is no negligence in the matter of safe guarding the lockers that could render the banks concerned liable to claims by locker holders,” his reply stated.