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Monday, February 20, 2012

Power pulls the plug on ATMs

Paul, who hails from Kerala and pursuing his second year in engineering in a college in Coimbatore, was in dire need of cash. He walked up to the ATM outside the college campus only to find the placard ‘Out of Order' placed on the screen of the cash dispensing machine.

Since there were at least four more ATMs (of other banks) within a distance of some 100 yards from the hostel, Paul decided to walk up, but found that none of the ATMs there was functional.

He did not give up. He took his friend's bike and decided to try at an ATM in another location (area) in the city. But no luck there either.

Common man affected

Paul is not alone in this hunt for a functional ATM. Elsewhere in the city a labourer sought the help of this correspondent to draw cash from the ATM.

“I tried to withdraw Rs 200 from the machine closest to my home. The guard there said that the machine was not functioning. Can you help me draw cash please?' he asked, thrusting his card.

But that ATM was also not responding to requests. Why? Frequent power outages of around 8-10 hours that the city has been experiencing for nearly a month now seems to have brought the problem to the fore in unexpected ways.

Hitherto, it was only industrialists who were raising a hue and cry about the acute shortage in power supply, while the common man bore the agony in silence.

Now it is beginning to hurt them more directly.

At least 60 per cent of the ATMs seems to go out of order because of the frequent power cuts.

Though the ATMs are backed by inverters, bankers say that there isn't sufficient time to charge the batteries. “We did not expect such long spells and frequent cuts in power. The inverter battery back-up is for two hours. We are trying to address the issue now,” said one banker.

While another said that ATM maintenance was being outsourced, so he was not in the know of the problem.

Conserving energy

Bankers say they try and conserve energy whenever possible. That includes switching off lights when not required because of the load on the inverter, and so on.

The situation remains bleak for now. Ironically even as ATMs are everywhere, the functional ones are few in this southern industrial hub.


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