Are your home or office private security guards trained? Probably not

Unlicensed agencies and their reluctance to invest; RWAs and their desire to avoid paying minimum wages; and governments and their lack of oversight are contributory factors
Talk to guards across Delhi and most of them will tell you that they have not undergone training as prescribed under the law (Representative Image) (AFP) PREMIUM
Talk to guards across Delhi and most of them will tell you that they have not undergone training as prescribed under the law (Representative Image) (AFP)
Updated on Oct 12, 2021 11:40 AM IST
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New Delhi: Rakesh Kumar was 58 years old when he lost his job at a cloth factory, and was looking for work. He saw an advertisement on an electric pole put up by a private security agency looking to hire guards. He made a call to the number, was asked to come for an interview the next day, and was hired.

Did he get any training?

“They taught me how to use firefighting equipment on the job and told me that I should talk politely to people, not much else. I left the job a couple of months later as there were long working hours, and joined this company, ” says Kumar, who currently works at a wine shop in Mayur Vihar. “No one would have hired me at this age for any other job, otherwise I would not want to do this at my age,” he said.

More (untrained) guards than cops

Kumar is not the only untrained guard. According to the Central Association of Private Security Industry (CAPSI), India currently has about nine million security guards, and about half of them are untrained. It is a worrying situation in a country where private security guards far outnumber police officers.

Research by The Guardian, published in 2017, said there were an estimated seven million private security workers in India compared to 1.4 million police officers — the highest disparity in the world. According to Freedonia, a business research agency, the private security industry is likely to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 15% to reach 1.6 lakh crore by 2024, doubling from 80,000 crore in 2019.

This growing demand means that many unlicensed private security agencies continue to mushroom. Kunwar Vikram Singh, chairman, CAPSI, says that India has about 23,000 private security agencies, and roughly 50% of them are unlicensed. “And 50% of 9 million guards would be untrained. Most of the untrained guards are hired by unlicensed security agencies,” Singh said. “At the heart of the problem is the most states have failed to strictly enforce the Private Security Agencies Regulation Act (PSARA), 2005.”

The Act, passed in 2007, prescribes the eligibility for a licence for a private security agency and eligibility to become a security guard. New model rules were created by the Union ministry of home affairs in December last year. According to the 2007 Act, a guard must undergo 162 hours of training. This includes conduct in the public; adhering to the dress code (a uniform); physical fitness training; learning the security of the buildings/apartments, personnel security protocols; firefighting; crowd control; and identification of improvised explosive devices, among others.

But talk to guards across Delhi and most of them will tell you that they have not undergone training as prescribed under the law. “All they taught me was how to salute and talk politely to the residents of the housing society I work in, and how to use the firefighting equipment installed in the building,” says Sumit Kumar, 32, a security guard in Noida.

The fault of the agencies

In 2019, Delhi’s home department released a public notice which highlighted the prevalence of unlicensed private security agencies in the Capital. Among other things, the letter said, “It has been observed that [the] number of private security agencies are operating without obtaining requisite licence… individuals engaged as security professionals are also not being provided proper training as per the prescribed syllabus.”

According to an industry estimate, Delhi has about 4,000 private security agencies and about 400,000 private security guards. The gap in the training of private security guards can also be gauged from the massive gap between the number of private security agencies and security guards in the Delhi-National Capital Region and the number of people being trained at government-recognised training facilities.

Take, for example, Previse Security Training Institute, the Capital’s first training institute for private security industry professionals such as security guards, supervisors, and personal security officers, among others.

“Private agencies have been reluctant to send their guards for training as prescribed under the law. Hardly 500 guards have come since 2012 when the training facility was set up,” says Deep Chand, founder-director of the institute and a retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer. The institute in Mehrauli spread over five acres offers a range of courses for private security personnel.

“The bitter truth is a lot of these private security agencies are only interested in somehow getting training certificates rather than investing in their guards for training,” he adds.

Col KK Singh, who runs Olive Heritage Training Institute in Gurugram, agrees: “Many private security agencies hire retired servicemen or police officers who are projected as their key officials and trainers to win the faith of the people. But even they need to be trained under the law to work with a private security agency.”

In RWAs, untrained and unappreciated

Sudhir Bhasin, Elite Security, a Delhi-based private security company, says it is mostly the Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) that hire unlicensed private security agencies. “It is because most RWAs in Delhi are not willing to pay the minimum wages. Most guards work for 12 hours and RWAs pay [them] only for eight hours,” Bhasin said. “There is no empathy for them. While people always point out their small lapses, there is never a word of appreciation for them. They do not understand the hard life of a guard who works 12 hours a day,” says Bhasin.

“An RWA is the most difficult posting. Many residents, especially the office bearers, treat you as their personal guard. I am supposed to ensure that no one parks in their parking, take couriers in their absence, and a lot more. And there is hardly ever a word of praise,” Rajneesh Singh, a guard in Rohini housing society, said.

“There are times when I work for 48 hours at a stretch because the night guard does not come. I do not get any paid leave. I have got no training, and but that is my agency’s fault,” he adds.

In 2019, the deputy register of the cooperative societies in Delhi issued a public notice advising all cooperative housing societies to hire security services from registered and licenced agencies under PSARA Act with the Delhi government. But Atul Goyal, president of the United Residents Joint Action (URJA), said “Unlike corporates, RWAs have financial constraints, but they hire security through the registered agencies only and pay the minimum wages as per the law. ”

The rise in demand

The Covid-19 pandemic, Vikram Singh says, has highlighted the importance of private security guards. “They were the only people guarding business establishments, offices, and shops during the lockdown. They were the ones who were helping patients and relatives in the hospitals during the peak of the pandemic at great personal risk. But they never got the credit they deserved.”

In India, which is woefully short of police, these guards, Bhasin says, can be a force multiplier to law enforcement agencies and a great source of generating employment. “But we need to make the security industry a career of choice for people,” he said.

Ajay Kumar Gupta, special secretary, home in the Delhi government, the controlling authority for private security agencies in Delhi under the PSARA Act, said that his department has so far issued licences to about 2,200 agencies in Delhi, and about 800 of them were in the last six months alone.

“About 400 applications are pending with us that we will clear in two months. We are streamlining the entire licensing process and taking it online. We have asked private security agencies to digitally submit certificates of training for their guards to us. Now, guards can undergo training only at a training centre that is registered with the national skill development council and follows the national skills qualifications framework (NSQF) and their agency,” says Gupta.

Needed: An active civil society

And what about action against unlicensed agencies?

“I have not received any complaint about any agencies that are operating without a licence. It is not practically possible for us to keep a tab on every security agency and its guards. People will have to ensure that they hire from a licensed agency and check the training certificates of their guards. We need the active support of civil society for the better enforcement of the law,” he added.

“We have proposed to the Union government to set up a directorate of private security services with representatives from both, the government and the private security industry, for better governance and structured growth of the private security sector,” says Vikram Singh.

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Sunday, October 17, 2021