Police & Private Security Partnership
-By Maxwell Pereira
maxpk@vsnl.com

The Private Security Agency (Regulation) Bill – 2005 passed in Parliament in May 2005 without much fanfare or debate, was a legislation that sadly lacked the attention it deserved. The subject was first discussed at a police science congress in 1974, and then worked on by the mandarins in the Ministry over twelve years ago to draw up an initial draft in 1994. The Bill was aimed to regulate a security business in the country, which I believe has crossed the Rs.2000-crore mark already.

With the advent of terrorism, even the ordinary citizen in our country had become security conscious. That’s when realisation dawned that society’s primary security provider – the police, was not in a position to give protection to all people, individually, at all times. This, mainly due to paucity of resources including funds and manpower. The spreading terrorist activities, the bomb culture introduced by extremists’ vandalism, the emerging gun-culture and a growing criminal activity fanned by criminal-politician nexus, kidnappings for ransom leading to an environment of insecurity and even just rowdy-ism of anti‑social elements and unruly mobs – soon necessitated deployment of private security in many a private/ industrial/ commercial establishments. The Government supplemented this need for securing its interests in its own public sector arena by raising the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF).

The need for private security led to the mushrooming of security agencies, particularly in an era of a newfound liberalisation of the economy. The unprecedented growth changed the security scenario with its estimated strength in deployed manpower by 2005 far exceeding the total number of police persons in the whole country. The haphazard growth had led to chaos, with the need felt acutely to streamline the functioning of these agencies – to bring them within the ambit of law.

Private security are employed in most organizations for: preventing pilferage, theft, robbery or dacoity, preventing breach of peace; preventing attack by anti‑social elements; and for ensuring safety and security of the employers, employees and the property. And in more recent times, also for escorting treasure and bullion.

But without proper regulation of this “service-soon-turned-industry”, grey areas were bound to surface. Security guards for one cannot really replace the police. The inadequacy then, in education qualifications and training – the designation ‘Security Guard’ not attracting many people, nor motivating enough to apply for the post. Consequently no qualified person available. The non-availability of organized training, no organized induction and on-the-job training. Reliance only on the knowledge and understanding of the particular security guard. The demand so heavy, with so much money to be made, no agency except a few with huge infrastructural establishments having the time, aptitude, or inclination to attend to such nitty-gritty as training and quality of service.

For most, a security job is often only a second source of income; so inadequate enthusiasm and involvement. Difficulty in motivating. Then ignorance of law – the security guard, sometimes even the security officer, not knowing the exact legal bound­aries within which to function. Though CrPC gives certain powers to ordinary citizens on certain occasions and IPC gives protection for certain acts, there are other actions that invite legal consequences. If awareness on these is lacking, there is possibility of overstepping and crossing boundaries and limits.

Then screening: For a security service agency the basic requirement being manpower, agencies are often vulnerable to recruiting persons even with past criminal records. No continuous screening of guards’ conduct, leading to introduction and fostering of criminal elements in the system. When a security person is caught, he rarely blacklisted, but only chucked out.

The matter of subservience to the boss – expectedly noted to become servants to bosses, leading to carrying out chores at the cost of security alertness. Professionalism relegated and sycophancy emerges. Over a period of time, vested interests develop and security guards are known to have been used for ulterior motives. The less qualified semi‑literate and the less motivated is often vulnerable also to enticement.

The mushrooming growth follows unhealthy competition and unfair trade practices. This leading to lowering of standards, recruiting of criminal elements, providing security guards for illegal purposes like forcible occupation/ eviction of plots or houses and deterring bona fide occupant/ owner. Also, starting of security agencies by unscrupulous persons for ulterior motives as in the case of property dealers, to threaten genuine purchases/ purchasers.

Then the sheer ease with which any one and everyone can start this industry, with no capital or infrastructure – easier than opening a shop – from retired service personnel, policemen or home guards, anyone can register a security agency under the municipal body’s Shops and Establishments Act. Despite this, not all agencies are listed, or operating with licences. Thousands of guards illegally employed and exploited by the so-called security agencies.

To obviate these problems, the Bill was a dying need, and quite overdue. Industry needed regulation, since security is first about saving lives and property and then about making money.

While across the board, the passing of this Bill was welcomed by most, there were lots and lots of murmurings though. Even so, there was inadequate debate on it in the media. The security agencies themselves made a few noises about many vital areas not adequately addressed by the Government in the Bill that was hurriedly rushed through parliament without the needed debate.

Despite several flaws, the Bill was expected to benefit the user – as it aimed to standardise services and protect the employee by ensuring better working conditions and minimum wages. While everything depends on how the bill is implemented, there is utter apathy on the part of the security industry and the people it serves to catch the bull by its horns and tackle the identified core issues. It is unfortunate however, that rather than a national standard for licensing, the new Bill required agencies only to be licensed at the district and state levels, mainly because of the Centre’s stand that law and order is a State subject. This has given rise to a multiplicity of standards, affecting quality and convenience. It is here that the government would do well to consider and use the CISF as a central regulatory authority to monitor the implementation of the provisions of the Security Agencies Bill, to streamline its effectives countrywide in a uniform and standardised manner.

There is no doubt that the Bill intended well. Even so the ride for the accountability that is sought to be introduced into what had till its enacting remained totally in the un-organized and the unregulated private sector, is bound to be bumpy. An estimated 50 to 60 lakh said to be employed across the country in this industry are invariably affected, without of course taking into account the impact on the corporates and other people who need to ultimately benefit from their service.  There is also dire need for owners of private security services to have thorough knowledge of their field of activities, limitations imposed by law and legal requirements or employ experts to advise them on these aspects. Verification of antecedents and continuous watch is needed, and no involvement in a criminal offence. Constant touch and interaction with the police of that area is advised.

With government’s dis-investment in its public sector holdings the vast resources of the CISF, which would otherwise be redundant, have rightfully been diverted now to areas covering its institutions and vital installations – be it to the highly sensitive and vulnerable airports, to the Metro-rail operations. Even so, there is need for its full potential in terms of knowledge, expertise, consultancy and so on to be realised and put to good use – as a national regulatory body, and for more commercial use – to be one day able to stand on its own feet without taxing the nation’s exchequer for its sustenance.

22.01.2007: Copyright © Maxwell Pereira: 0124-2360568, 4111026; 3725 Sector-23, Gurgaon-122017 Available at  mfjpkamath@gmail.com or maxpk@vsnl.com  & http://www.maxwellpereira.com 

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