Recent incidents of home guards abusing their powers have raised serious questions about their lack of sensitivity and training.
A member of home guards, Sanjay Kharpade, was booked for molesting a woman commuter while on escort duty in a local train on the night of October 3. In another incident, two women, including a journalist, were thrashed at the Lalbaugcha Raja Ganesh pandal on September 28 by a group of policemen. A woman home guard, identified as SK Yadav, was among those who assaulted the woman.
Home guards are an auxiliary force, deployed to assist security agencies to which they are allotted. According to the Bombay Home Guards Act, 1947, they are not designed to chase or tackle criminals. They are a voluntary force and are paid an honorarium of Rs400 a day.
The recent incidents of abuse of power took place when home guards were deployed in the absence of the police, which contradicts the provisions of the Act. The Labour Law states that a home guard can be granted the status of a full-time employee if the person is deployed at one place for over 90 days. So they are stationed on rotation duty.
“The selection process of home guards is casual and most of them lack strong education. They also lack systematic training,” said YP Singh, former IPS officer-turned-lawyer.
Singh said this is reason why they need to act under supervision. “However, this is not followed. The home guards should always be deployed for assistance of the force to avoid breach of order,” he said.
Home guards are also not liable for departmental action. At most, those found involved in unsavoury incidents are de-rostered and are not hired again. “We are trying to lay down a mechanism to streamline the home guards and to train them in a way that they maintain order and such incidents can be avoided in future,” said a home guard official.
At present, home guards undergo basic training at Ghatkopar police training centre for 30 days. The training includes ‘parade training, firefighting and first aid’, an official said.
Originally, the home guards were assigned duties of assisting the police and the traffic police during festivals. Also, they were posted at the headquarters of public sector undertakings along with the state security agencies. This, apart from being deployed as night escorts in women’s coaches in local trains.
Senior home guard officials, including director general Rakesh Maria, were unavailable for comment.