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


A Bill passed quietly through the portals of Parliament earlier this month without much fanfare or debate, thanks to the ‘boycott of Parliament’ the county’s Opposition indulged in. This was a legislation that was first discussed at a police science congress in 1974, then worked on by the mandarins in the Ministry for a Bill over ten years ago and drafted in 1994 – The Private Security Agency (Regulation) Bill 2005, that aims to regulate the Rs 1,500-crore security business in the country.

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, bomb culture introduced by extremists’ vandalism, and rowdyism of anti social elements and unruly mobs, soon necessitated deployment of private security in many industrial/ commercial establishments.

This led to mushrooming of security agencies, particularly in the era of liberalisation of the economy. The unprecedented growth changed the security scenario with its estimated strength in deployed manpower currently far exceeding the total number of police persons in the whole country. The haphazard growth led to chaos, and the need to streamline the functioning of security agencies, to bring them within the ambit of law.

Today 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. Lately, also for escorting treasure and bullion.

But without proper regulation of this “service-soon-turned-industry”, grey areas surfaced. Security guards for one, cannot really replace the police. Then the inadequacy 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.

For most, a security job being only a second source of income - so inadequate enthusiasm and involvement. Difficulty in motivating. Then ignorance of law. 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 which invite legal consequences. If awareness on these is lacking, there is possibility of overstepping.

Then screening: For a security service agency the basic requirement is 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, 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. Often the less qualified semi literate and less motivated is 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 the genuine purchases.

Then the sheer ease with which any one or everyone could 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 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 has been welcomed by most, there are nurmerings. Everything will depend on how the bill is implemented, many feel. Despite several flaws, the Bill will benefit the user, as it aims to standardise services and protect the employee by ensuring better working conditions and minimum wages. However, rather than a national standard for licensing, the new Bill requires agencies to be licensed at the district and state levels, mainly because of the Centre’s stand that law and order is a State subject.

There is no doubt that the Bill intends well. Even so the ride for the accountability that is sought to be introduced into what has till now remained totally in the unorganized and the unregulated private sector, is bound to be bumpy. An estinmated 20 to 50 lakh said to be emplyed across the country in this industry are bound to be affected.

Finally, there is 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.

900 words: dated 16.05.2005: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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