Kamini Kumar, 28, charges at Ruchi Kaul and, letting out a loud shriek, delivers a hard knee punch. Kaul, who is holding a punching bag, is not quite satisfied with the move and asks her to deliver a harder punch. Kamini charges at Kaul again and delivers another blow, this time the impact is so hard that Kaul almost loses her balance.
Kamini is undergoing training as a security guard and Kaul is her trainer. The training arena is the basement training centre of 24 Secure Services, a private security firm.
The walls of the large training hall have huge mirrors, charts on first aid, artificial respiration, the human body’s blood circulation, among others.
One of the walls has a whiteboard, next to it is a mannequin donning the uniform of a security guard. There is a cabinet with security devices such as smoke, heat and metal detectors, etc. There are under-vehicle search mirrors on the floor. The three weeks, eight-hour-a-day training includes both field and classroom lessons in the use of security devices and soft skills.
These days, the training centre stays busy as the number of women wanting to become security guards has risen like never before. The number of guards 24 Secure has employed has more than doubled in the past couple of years. Kamini, who hails from Meerut, came to the Capital 5 years ago with her husband, two daughters and a son. The idea, she says, was to make sure that her children go to an English medium school in a big city.
“My husband is a daily wage labourer, whose income was not enough to run the house. Survival in Delhi was difficult, so I decided to work. I did not want to work at anyone’s house as a maid, and decided to become a guard,” says soft-spoken Kamini. She will be earning about Rs 9,000 a month once she is recruited.
Her colleague, 21-year-old Rebicca, who is undergoing training to upgrade her skills, joined as a guard four years ago. She decided to work after her father, who was a driver, fell sick. “We were financially in dire straits. I was in Class 11 and realised that I would have to find a job to support the family and continue my education. First, I worked as an assistant in the patient care department of a south Delhi hospital, but I was not enjoying that job. One of the guards in the hospital suggested that I can join the profession too. I am getting a better salary, and am able to pursue my education,” says Rebicca, who is also pursuing BA through correspondence.
“All our women guards come from poor families, but they are exceptionally driven, have great moral strength and courage. In many difficult situations, they have proved to be more tactful than their male counterparts. I plan to recruit about 1,000 women over the next one year,” says Sunil Duggal, founder of 24 Secure, which currently employs 600 female guards.
Sampurna, a Delhi-based NGO which provides vocational training to young underprivileged girls, recently conducted a survey to understand vocational preferences of underprivileged women after it realised that there were few takers for its traditional training in tailoring and beauty courses.
“The survey brought out the fact that most of these girls preferred to become a security guard or a taxi driver. What attracts these women to the two vocations is a sense of empowerment, adventure and the desire to prove that they can do better in these traditional male bastions,” says Shobha Vijender, founder of Sampurna.
So, Vijender changed her organisation’s focus. Last month, Sampurna, in collaboration with a security company provided training to about 33 underprivileged women as security guards as part of ‘We Initiative’ of FLO (FICCI’s women organisation). “Many of them have got offers from five star hotels, but the problem is that most of these girls don’t get any support from their families,” says Vijender.
According to industry estimates, there are about 15,000 female security guards in the Capital, up from 2,000 a couple of years ago. Most of the demand comes from hospitals, hotels and malls. Select CityWalk in Saket, for example, has about 50 female guards.
“There is growing demand for well-groomed female security guards from hospitality, retail and educational sectors. Women make up 20% of our workforce. They are unskilled or semi-skilled workers, either 10th or 12th class, and belong to underprivileged sections of the society. In several cases they are the sole earning members of the family,” says Saurabh Singla, vice-president, HR shared services, G4S India, a prominent private security company.
Kunwar Vikram Singh, chairman, Security Sector Skill Development Council (SSSDC) which works under National Skill Development Corporation and the Ministry of Skill Development, says in the changed security scenario, frisking, including that of women at public places such as malls has become necessary. “You require women guards for that; besides a lot of companies now prefer woman security guard as receptionists,” says Singh.
The Security Sector Skill Development Council, which has the mandate to develop national occupational standards in the security sector, has about 200 training centres affiliated to it.
The central government pays Rs 7,500 under the Prime Minister Kaushal Vikas Yojna to women who want to be trained as security guards. Girls trained under this scheme have been assured placement by the Central Association of Private Security Industry. “We have trained 6,000 woman guards in the last two years,” says Singh.
While the private security sector has emerged as a big source of employment for these underprivileged girls, working as a security guard in the city is not always easy. “On many occasions, a lot of people misbehave with us. The other day, when I tried to stop a man who was entering the hospital where I work from a wrong gate, he shouted at me, ‘Are you an IPS? Guards like you do duty at the gate of my house’,” says Vandana Chauhan, who works with a security company in Delhi. “I also face abuse from drunken women at night clubs, who just do not let us check their handbags. But men misbehave with us even more,” she says.