Banks demand huge deposits to provide locker facility for customers

A couple, both retired from Central Government service, almost lost a travel bag containing 37 sovereigns of gold that fell down from their two-wheeler on Friday. But for the timely help rendered by two autorickshaw drivers, their jewels, bought out of hard-earned money, could have gone missing for ever.

K.S. Balasubramanian and his wife Pappa had taken the gold in the bag all the way to Tirunelveli where they went to meet their daughter.

When asked why they should carry all the gold in the bag, Mr.Balasubramanian, a retired postmaster said, “I feared of burglary and hence carried it along.”

Ms.Pappa cited fear of losing the jewels as reason for not wearing them during bus journey. Mr.Balasubramanian reasoned that he did not have to keep the jewels in a bank locker since the couple are always at home.

Mr.Balasubramanian could be one of the many people who are not aware of the benefit of bank locker facility. Police have been making pleas to people to keep their jewels in lockers to safeguard them.

Even on Thursday last, Superintendent of Police V. Balakrishnan made such an appeal.

The police say many people are either unaware of the facility or hesitant to use it for various reasons.

The strongrooms where the lockers are located ensure security to the jewels kept in lockers. Besides, the safe vaults come up with various anti-burglary gadgets, including cameras, to keep a tab on activities inside lockers. Besides, round-the-clock security is provided at the banks.

“Many people think that the bank employees can open the lockers without the knowledge of customers. Every locker has to be opened with a combination of two keys, one of which will be with the customer. Without the customer’s key no locker can be opened,” a police officer said. On the advantages of lockers, an official from a nationalised bank said lockers could be used jointly by two persons. “It is not that only men have to come all the way to banks to take the jewels. If they have a joint locker facility, their wives can use the facility in their absence,” he added.

People could keep their high-value ornaments safe for a meagre yearly rental or fee. “There is no need for people to maintain high deposits, but they should be ready to pay three-year rental in advance,” lead bank manager Manoharan said.

However, such a facility is not likely to reach all the people who want it on as wished by the police.

The classical example is the incident that happened to a doctor couple in Teppakulam. On October 26 last year, 80 sovereigns of gold and over four kg of silver ornaments were stolen from the locked house belonging to the couple.

Dr.Mathivanan complained that he had to keep all the valuables at home as his banker had not provided him with a locker facility despite repeated requests. The doctor said he had his clinic banking account with that particular bank.

With limited availability of lockers, the branches of nationalised banks in the district could not meet huge demand from the customers.

Mr.Manoharan said there was an increased awareness of the locker facility and more and more people wanted it.

“However, the standard size of the strong room in each bank branch allows only a limited number of lockers. With the branches in the city having reached the saturation point with regard to the number of lockers, additional lockers could come only from new bank branches,” he said.

Mr.Manoharan said the Chairman of Canara Bank had asked the bank officials to create additional lockers in the branches.

“He has instructed us to remove almirahs that are being kept in the strongrooms to keep bank records outside the safe vault so that additional lockers could be created,” he noted.

Huge waiting lists were being maintained at the banks and as and when someone surrendered his locker due to some reason, it was allotted to another customer on the basis of seniority, he added.

However, customers say that bank officials were demanding huge deposits for providing locker facility. People are also approaching banks in rural areas where locker facilities are available.

Till one got a locker, he had to hide the valuables at home in unconventional places like fridge, water tanks or boxes where food grains were stored. However, the danger was that thieves these days left no stone unturned to lay their hands on the valuables, the police officer said.

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