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Who will secure the security guard?

When a young security guard opened fire on employees of the south Delhi office of a private finance company on Thursday night he also blew the lid off the dark side of an otherwise thriving sector of employment.

delhi Updated: Sep 03, 2011 00:37 IST
Jatin Anand

When a young security guard opened fire on employees of the south Delhi office of a private finance company on Thursday night he also blew the lid off the dark side of an otherwise thriving sector of employment.

Private security guards, more than 3.5 lakh of whom are employed across Delhi - from cinema halls and college campuses to gated communities and corporate offices - serve under conditions that are anything but 'secure'.

As per the Private Security Agencies Regulation Act of 2005 by the central government, guards are supposed to be paid Rs 6,300 per month for eight-hour shifts, are entitled to 4 off days and medical welfare.

But Shanti Singh, 45, (name changed), currently employed at a residential colony in east Delhi's Mayur Vihar, has a different tale to tell.

When he began his career at a corporate office in Connaught Place he found himself keeping guard for 48 hours straight, armed only with a battery operated torch.

"Two days turned into three and finally, on the morning of the fourth day, I was sacked because they caught me nodding while on duty near the main gate," said Singh.

The job profile gives preference to retired personnel from police and paramilitary forces, but most companies end up employing migrants from north India, who are ready to work cheap.

"Nobody wants to pay even the minimum wages. And those who work often have to supplement their income through odd jobs," said Kunwar Vikram Singh, Chairman, Central Association of Private Security Industry.

"We get complaints from employees that they are forced to work beyond the stipulated hours and still do not get theirsalary in time. Most agencies pay their employees in cash and do not keep any record of their employment," said a senior Labour Department official.

The department tries to settle the matter, and in case they can't it is referred to court.

RK Sinha, executive chairman, Security and Intelligence Services, one of the security providers, points out: "The companies are unable to pay well because their clients are unwilling to shell out money. That is why unlicensed agencies are mushrooming across the city."