EDITORIAL: Misuse of lockers

The law should take its course but the banking authorities should also take appropriate measures to make the bank lockers safe

The arrest on Sunday of Lharkhyal Lama on charges of illegal possession of bullets in his bank locker has raised several questions about the way some people use their bank lockers and whether the banking authorities should tighten the rules about opening a locker and the things they are allowed to keep in it. On the other hand, Lama, 51, and a UCPN-M lawmaker, who has triggered a lot of controversy already about the kind of person he is, has provided further ammunition to be used against him. Clearly he has put himself at a disadvantage fighting the law for something which he could have easily avoided. Fourteen bullets were found in his locker in Nepal Investment Bank Ltd in Kathmandu. The finders, the men from the anti-graft agency, the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), found themselves surprised when they were investigating another case against him. Naturally, CIAA handed him over to police who have detained him under the Arms and Ammunition Act. If convicted, he will get one to three years in prison or a fine of Rs.20, 000 to Rs.100, 000, or both.

Further investigation may determine the motive behind the illegal possession of bullets, and that too in a bank locker, and the whereabouts of the gun, without which the bullets would be harmless. Lama may not lose the position of a lawmaker unless convicted however, Speaker Onsari Gharti said yesterday that he has been suspended following his arrest on charges of possessing bullets. But his arrest and the charge which faces are worth pondering. An Investment Bank official says that the bank cannot be blamed for the seizure of the contraband in the locker. Certainly, before opening a locker with a bank, the person concerned has to sign a document that prohibits the keeping of contraband in it. But it is safe to suggest that not only the Investment Bank but other banks too would do well to pay more attention to the use of their lockers by all kinds of people. A tighter security check would help in this task.

But the present regulations do not allow the banks to check the locker users’ bags and see what valuables they are carrying because of a privacy policy. Lama’s case also raises the possibility of other examples of misuse of lockers being used by unscrupulous people. Bullets will beat metal detectors as they are like any other metal. And bullets are very small and an ordinary search is unlikely to detect them. Therefore, only a thorough manual check can work. For this the regulations need to be amended.  Other unscrupulous people may also be using the lockers for keeping prohibited items like narcotics and escaping the law. People may also be keeping cash in lockers. Though money is not contraband, keeping cash in a locker may suggest that it is more likely to be black money at a time when the banking services have improved very much in Nepal over the past few years, with such devices as ATM and credit cards. For the convenience of withdrawals, such devices are easier than lockers. The law should take its course but the banking authorities should also take appropriate measures to make the bank lockers safe, not only for users, but for the law and society at large.

Easy commuting

City folks should be able to commute comfortably as 39 high-tech luxury buses have been added. At present these buses will be operating in the ring road in the first phase. These fleets of 32-seater coaches will be able to accommodate around 70 passengers. With gadgets like Wi-Fi and CCTV cameras among other innovations like GPS trafficking will enable the passengers to know where the nearest bus is and also the number of passengers travelling in it.

It is high time more such public buses were added as at present commuters have a difficult time riding in overcrowded buses and other public transport. This service provided by the Mahanagar Transport Pvt Ltd. comes as a relief. Also having female conductors in these high-tech buses means that the transport company will strive to have a hospitable image. The company has made an investment of about Rs. 160 million on these coaches. People should be encouraged to ply in them instead of commuting in

private vehicles. In a way this would help in lessening the air pollution besides permitting the passengers to commute without facing much hassles. The capital city could do with more such buses. The government should cut the taxes on the import of these buses which would charge fares set by the government.