Faced with a critical manpower crunch in its security wing, the Indian Railways has increasingly started depending on private security agencies to guard installations and properties including hospitals, factories, public sector undertakings and offices.
Policy decisions (on employing private security) have not been framed, but inquiries reveal that some general managers have already started hiring private guards.
The railway hospital in Delhi and certain offices and properties in Jabalpur are being guarded by private guards.
Vacancies in the Railways Protection Force (RPF) range between 25% and 30% of sanctioned strength of 72,000 personnel (approximately about 18,000 short).
Several south-bound trains go un-guarded, while there is critical shortage of manpower for protecting railway properties including station area, yards, goods sheds and offices.
Against the 10,000 posts of constables advertised for the RPF this year, the Railways have received 27 lakh applications. The process of opening up and digitalising the application forms will easily take a few months.
This will be followed by written and physical tests - culminating in the eight-month training program for the candidates.
"The recruitment process is long-winding and tedious. These posts are unlikely to be filled up within two years," an official said, on the condition of anonymity.
"The recruitment drives are flagged off every now and then. .... But no recruitments happened. The government is inclined to privatise security services - a move that we will oppose tooth and nail", said Uma Shankar Jha, general secretary, RPF association.
Jha's point: Private guards are exploited by their agents. "By associating with these agencies, the government is violating its constitutional obligations."
"There is no policy of engaging private security guards for security duties. However, the private guards are being allowed on experimental basis in non-core areas. This is being done under the supervision of RPF staff, after proper verification and due recommendation and diligence by a committee of senior officers", ministry spokesman Anil Kumar Saxena said.