Day 30/ 365 – Security (or lack of) at ATMs

Yesterday we had a horrific attack on a woman who was using an ATM in Bangalore. The woman who happens to be working in a bank was attacked by a man with machete at 7 am in the morning. While the woman is being treated and recovering from the attack, the man who attacked her is still at large. This incident has raised heckles as far as banks providing security for ATM’s is concerned. When I has just returned from the US, I was surprised to see ATMs located in AC booths and security guards posted outside. My experience in the US was entirely different, where the ATM’s where just machines in the wall and there was no one guarding it. I always used to wonder why waste so much space, especially in a city like Mumbai where space is a limited and you have to pay through exorbitant amounts to rent or buy. The security guard who is normally stationed outside, does not have a gun. I think they have a baton with them (though, not sure how it helps when someone has a machete or a gun). Most of the time, they just keep whiling away their time sitting on a chair instead of being alert and looking out for people with suspicious behavior. I believe the above incident could have been avoided if the ATM’s are brick in the transparent booths instead of shops with shutters, so that alarm can be raised in case of such incidents. We will now probably have some regulation that the RBI will pass and make it mandatory for banks to have security guards 24×7 which in turn would increase the operating margin for the banks, reduce their profitability and ultimately be passed on to the consumer in form of limited withdrawals a month for free or some charge every time you use an ATM. On the lighter note, this would be the increase in the number of people employed through security agencies. This would also spawn new security agencies who only deal with ATM security. So thanks to the attacker, we will probably see a decrease in unemployment numbers in the upcoming quarters.

How have we become like this?

Today me and my colleagues were having a very interesting conversation in the cafeteria. The topic was “How have we become like this”? Considering the fact that we got independence in the year 1947 and since then how as a society we have become more and more corrupt. We compared the corruption levels in India to other countries and realized that we are probably worst of the lot and were left wondering where did we go wrong? Is corruption so imbibed in us that we will never change? Or have we started to see some change in the society? During the conversation, we tried to identify the beginnings of India being corrupt. We agreed that we were corrupt since the time India was ruled by many kingdoms. During those times, there were constant fights between two kingdoms with one wanting to establish supremacy over the other and obtain the resources of the other kingdom. During those times, allies would have been paid fees to fight and thus quite a lot of money would be exchanged. Some of it would be exchanged to return a favor, some to get certain work done etc. We felt this how corruption got its roots in India. Greed – was the root cause of corruption.

There is corruption in all the countries, but not to the extent that we have in India. The reason we felt was lack of implementation of laws. While we have laws, we do not have the will to implement the law, thus allowing people to get away with corruption. Once people stop fearing the law, it becomes a way of life and that’s what we are seeing today. Every one from the top to bottom goes scot free even though they would have broken a thousand laws or would be involved in scams worth billions of rupees. In developed countries, people don’t get away. Law is applied equally and hence everyone fears committing a crime or being corrupt.  We don’t have equality in our laws and thus we end up creating more problems rather than solving them.

While there are always a few people who are fighting for the right thing, people in general need to awake and move towards changing their behavior. Even a person accepting a bribe is successful when someone pays him. If we don’t pay, chances are people won’t ask. I believe if we have the strength to apply laws with equality and speed up the judiciary process, we should be able to move towards a better society.


Economy and Markets

The last few weeks have been very tumultuous for everyone. The global market melt down has affected almost everyone in same way or the other. The collapse of major financial institutions has caused a worry in the market as to who is safe? It seems like all industries have been effected by this. Two days ago, Europe officially admitted that st it is under recession and so did Japan. US, we already know is under recession but they wont accept it. The global oil prices, have also fallen down. In India, we see the sensex has crashed, the rupee is struggling, construction industry is bust, and credit is not easily available in the market.

I think for long term investors this is the perfect time to invest. For people who have savings, this is the best time since there is a lot of panic and fear in the market. Also the prices for the housing market will come back to earth in the next few months and it will be a very good time to get a house. The basic principle of the market economy is supply and demand. Currently there is abundant supply and the demand is very few and this is going to bring down the prices, since the inventory has to be cleared. If this does not happen, there wont be new products launched.

I dont know what I am trying to say here and why I am dishing out all this “gyaan”. I guess in someways I am myself affected by this market crash. Some of my investments have lost 40% of their value and I am not sure if I will ever regain the lost value. Only time will tell. But I truly wish I had some money on hand because now is the best time to invest and reap profits for the future.

Bomb blasts in Jaipur

Another terrorist attack in India. This time the city targeted was Jaipur, the Pink City, in Rajasthan. The city, I believe has no past history of communal violence. It is very sad that 80 people died and countless other lives affected for absolutely no reason. Every year there is atleast one terrorist attack in India. I find it very surprising that inspite of such increased terrorist activity, the government is not able to do anything. This is a major problem and it requires a very different way of solving. I dont think the Intelligence Bureau or Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in India are any good or do they have sufficient funding to fight something like this. I am also sure if confronted, they will come and show us statistics that we have prevented so and so attacks and will also tell us, we cant stop all attacks (which I agree too). What I am more worried about is the frequency of such attacks. 9/11/2001 was a major terrorist attack. It will be 7 years since that day this September and America has gone ahead and turned half the world against them, but still we don’t see terrorist attacks reported in that country. Some of the steps they have taken are pretty drastic, but I guess drastic problems require drastic solutions. I would just like to end this post by offering my condolences to the people and their families who lost their near and dear ones yesterday. May Peace be upon us, really soon.