When I go to a friend’s house, the security guard asks me to write my name, address, telephone number as well as the flat number and the name of the flat owner who I have come to meet, in the register. Then he asks me to provide my photo identity card. When I refuse to give my mobile number, I am asked to call my friend to let me inside. I wonder how we functioned before the invention of mobile phones.
When I go to a mall, at the entrance of the premises, the security personnel asks me to open my bike’s dikki. When I sarcastically ask him to check if there is a time bomb in it, he snaps back with a snide “Aapne rakha hai kya? Agar rakha hai to bahar phodo. Andar mat le jao.” (Do you have it? If you do, make sure it explodes outside. Do not carry it in.) I am stunned and curse my bad timing.
Then I go inside and at the entrance of the building, another security guard asks me to remove my scarf, hand gloves and sunglasses. I don’t understand how wearing sunglasses constitute a breach of security. Again I am frisked by a woman security guard to check if I am carrying any weapons (in a commercial mall where I am going to purchase bread and eggs). And finally, my handbag’s chain is tightly locked with a plastic runner because they suspect I might steal something small from inside the mall and put it inside my handbag. Who says ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’?
When I go to my office, every single day I flash my identity card, at the entrance gate of the building. I scan my handbag, my tiffin bag, then provide my laptop pass and finally end up at my desk. There are also CCTV cameras installed every five metres to keep a watch on me every single minute.
My blood boils when in my own society, at the entrance of my own apartment, the security guard asks me “Madam gadi ko sticker lagao. Nahi to entry nahi milegi.” (Madam fix a sticker on your vehicle. Or else we can’t let you enter) I am pissed. But alas, I obediently go to the security office and get a sticker for my bike.
At all these places, one worrying factor is the attitude of our hard working security guards. Has anyone ever seen a happy and pleasant guard with a smile on his face? Little chance of that happening.
Have you ever wondered why? Because they are in one of the toughest jobs in this country. It is always easy to blame these helpless people for security lapses.
Many security guards in tier I cities are youths from poor rural families who cannot afford education and have to start earning early in their lives. They come to cities in search of employment. Many of them stay in shared and rented accommodations. Many times, 8-10 people share a one room kitchen apartment to save money.
The work shift usually stretches beyond 12 hours. No proper breaks for food, unhygienic sanitation, insufficient rest, changing shifts, lack of medical help, meagre salaries and most importantly, heavy physical exertion under extreme weather conditions can lead to huge resentment and frustration. It is no surprise that these people are irritated and angry most of the time.
According to a report, the value of the private security industry in India was ₹40,000 crore in 2014 and is expected to become ₹80,000 crore by 2020. The report goes on to say that currently, private security provides employment to more than 70 lakh people and that by 2020, it should generate a further 50 lakh jobs.
The report also highlights some of the challenges that the industry currently faces. The PSAR (Private Security Agencies (Regulations) Act, 2005, enacted for the private security sector (PSS) has not yet been implemented uniformly across all Indian states. In March 2017, Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said that the Centre will fast track the process of giving ‘skilled worker’ status to security guards of this country. Hopefully, it will bring in some positive changes.
So, what can be the future of security in our country?
Firstly, in the name of security, we are creating a distrustful, obsessive and paranoid atmosphere for ourselves which is leading to more insecurities. Secondly, we are not empowering the people who are actually entrusted with our security. The guards don’t trust us and we don’t trust them either.
Finally, in spite of the all the security measures, there are still multiple loopholes which can be used to breach security if someone seriously intends to. Bomb blasts happen, terrorist attacks happen, people die in spite of the presence of security.
Just yesterday, the man at the billing counter of the mall forgot to remove the magnetic pin from the new kurta I purchased. But shockingly, the security didn’t notice and neither did the alarm go off. I only realised it upon reaching home and now I will have a more difficult task of convincing those people that I did not just steal the kurta and carried it out of the mall when no one was looking.
Security is necessary, of course. But it’s time to make it more people-friendly – for both the customers and the guards . But it will take a long time for that to happen in India.
I suppose these are the choices we have till that time:
The choice is yours.