India Inc is queuing up at the ministry of home to seek Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) cover whose commandos are trained and armed to keep terrorists at bay.
The government has already ordered a security audit of the public and private sector installations to assess the requirements at new locations, and optimise deployment at the 300-plus public sector installations. “The list of companies is getting longer by the week,” a senior home ministry official, who didn’t wish to be identified, said.
An ordinance to amend the CISF Act was promulgated early January and is due to come up for parliamentary approval this week. It allows the CISF to guard private sector installations and extend legal cover for sending personnel to guard Indian missions abroad.
Requests have already come in from nearly three dozen companies, including Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Petroleum, Anil Ambani’s Reliance Energy, National Stock Exchange, Ambuja Cements, Tata Steel and biotechnology major Biocon. Several IT companies, including Infosys, too, have sought the cover. “We have requests from about 40 companies, nearly half of them came over the last month,” the official told HT.
But security will not be available for asking. “The audit will determine the kind of security that should be extended, if at all,” an official said.
For now, the ministry has drawn up a three-tier priority list that has crucial sectors like power, space, airports and technology on top. The second includes major units in Naxalite or insurgency-affected areas. Private sector units that do not fall in either of the two, but may face a significant threat are third on the list.
But the ministry hasn’t decided if the private sector should be charged the same rates as the public sector, or higher. Public sector, too, has to reimburse the CISF.
At the heart of the debate within the ministry is whether additional security for the private sector is part of the government’s sovereign responsibilities, or can a higher price be asked in view of the ability to pay principle.
“It seems likely that the government would require the private sector to pay more,” a senior official said. But, the CISF personnel — at existing and new locations — would not be on watch and ward duties, the officials said. The commandos would be posted at crucial locations and come into the picture when needed.
Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta told the standing committee of parliament tasked to examine the ministry’s legislation that the deployment was aimed at “protecting critical areas” relating to access control and surveillance.
“The other access control should be in the hands of private security guards... In case of a problem, CISF’s quick reaction team would rush to the situation,” he told the panel.