Six hours after the offices of Shastri Bhawan officially closed, the three CISF personnel standing guard outside stare curiously at the lights still on inside the building and the shadowy figures in the corridors.
The guards are armed but helpless — their only instructions are to guard the premises, not go upstairs to check who is in the building hours after official closing hours.
February 17 was no different until a Delhi police team swooped in and arrested two men who had allegedly stolen classified documents and sold them to energy consultants and corporates.
Two FIRs have been registered so far and sixteen people have been arrested in connection with the case — many of whom used forged identity cards to get into the building and steal documents.
Ten days after the arrests, the guards have been asked to remain alert and to allow entry of vehicles only after proper verification.
The problem, one of the guards revealed, is that Shastri Bhawan — which houses the ministries of petroleum, steel and coal among others — is open throughout the night. And each department has a night peon who usually brings along a ‘relative’ or friend for company at night.
“We are not allowed to go inside and check on them. Our only instruction is to guard the premises... Previously, night peons requested us to allow their sons inside for delivering food and clothing. Some even said they needed company and wanted their sons to be with them. Now that has all stopped,” said a guard.
Verifying vehicles has also proven to be a difficult task as people tend to drop names to gain access. With a red beacon and Parliament of India stickers on each vehicle demanding entry, a CISF guard said they used to take the help of the night peons to verify the vehicles. But now with a night peon arrested in the case, the guards have to verify the vehicles themselves.
“Personal secretaries of ministers or senior bureaucrats use cars with red beacons. They usually say they have come to pick up urgent files... Our duties are not permanent here. We’re transferred routinely from one building to another, so we cannot remember faces. Until they set their house in order, these thefts will keep happening,” said another official.