From the Ambani brothers to the Tatas, India Inc. is queuing up at the Ministry of Home Affairs to seek security cover of Central Industrial Security Force commandos, trained and armed to keep the terrorists at bay.
A security audit of the public and private sector has been ordered to assess the security requirements at the new locations and optimize deployment at the 300-plus public sector installations.
In addition, the security audit also covers big hotels in metros like Mumbai’s Taj and beaches frequented by foreign tourists.
“The list of companies (which have sought security) is getting longer by the week,” a senior home ministry official said.
An ordinance to amend the CISF Act was promulgated in early January and is due to come up for parliamentary approval this week. The amendment allows the CISF to be posted at private sector installations and gives legal cover to send them for protection of Indian missions abroad.
Requests have already come in from nearly two-dozen companies like Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Petroleum, Anil Ambani’s Reliance Energy, National Stock Exchange, Ambuja Cements, Jindal Steel & Power, Tata Steel, JayPee Group, biotechnology major Biocon and several IT companies including Infosys.
But the security cover is not going to be able available to everyone for asking.
“The audit will determine the kind of security cover that should be extended, if at all,” said a home ministry official.
For now, the home ministry has drawn up a three-tier priority list that has crucial sectors like power, atomic energy, space, airports, science and technology at the top. The second priority includes major units in naxalite or insurgency-affected areas. Private sector units that do not fall in either of the first two, but may face a significant threat come last.
But the home ministry hasn’t made up its mind if the government should charge the private sector the same rates as the public sector or a higher rate. Public sector installations where the CISF is deployed also have to reimburse CISF for the security cover.
At the heart of this debate within the home ministry is whether the additional security cover for the private sector formed part of the government’s sovereign responsibilities. Or can the government levy a higher price in view of the ability to pay principle.
Home ministry officials, however, made clear that the CISF personnel – at existing and new locations – would get out of watch and ward functions. Instead, the CISF commandos would be posted at crucial locations and come into the picture in case of a need.
Union home secretary Madhukar Gupta told the standing committee of parliament tasked to examine home ministry legislation that their deployment aimed at “protecting critical areas” relating to access control and surveillance.
“The other access control should be in the hands of private security guards. However, wireless communication system would be maintained by the CISF. In case of any problem, the Quick Reaction Team of the CISF would immediately rush to the situation,” he told the panel.
In case of IT majors, the home ministry favours positioning CISF commandos at locations from where they can extend cover to multiple units at the same time.