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Making Private Security Agencies Accountable

THE arrest of a private security guard for the murder of the perfumer Monika Ghurde has led to a scrutiny of the risks posed to people by the ‘guards’ of private security agencies posted in building societies. This is not the first time a security guard has been found involved in crime against residents of apartments in the buildings they are supposed to provide safety to. As the Monika Ghurde case has brought the issue in focus once again, the private security agencies that supply guards to residential and commercial properties have advised occupants not to give house keys, valuables and money to them for “safekeeping.” They have also urged the managements of residential and commercial complexes and banks, industrial units, educational institutes, government departments and corporate houses to install CCTV in their premises which could help in keeping vigilance over the activities of the guards deployed. Though the security agencies claim that they keep all details of identity and identification of the guards they hire, it is doubtful whether all agencies actually do proper verification of the staff employed by them. The agencies also claim they provide their men training in skills to provide protection, which on ground check appears to be doubtful as security guards in most complexes hardly carry out a professional screening of persons entering the premises guarded by them, such as physically checking the bags they carry. Some private security agencies blame the rising number of crimes by security guards on fly-by-night security agencies that have mushroomed in the state and operate with political patronage.
Though there exist laws that mandate private security agencies to pay minimum wages and other benefits to the security guards they seldom follow them. Often, security guards are not paid adequate wages. What is worse, the payment of their salaries is delayed for months. Some agencies pay wages much lesser than the minimum wages fixed by the government. Security guards have to work for 12 to 24 hours shifts at a stretch, with no overtime paid. It is believed that as a substantial number of private security agencies enjoy political patronage the checking of their record books is carried out in such a manner as to suit the interests of the owners. As most of the security guards hail from the lower strata of society and poorer income households from labour supplying states such as Odisha and Jharkhand, non-payment of wages on time coupled with their desire to earn more money within the shortest possible time prompts some of them to resort to dubious means to make a living and support their families. A substantial number of private security guards have to leave their families back home as they cannot afford to keep them in Goa. Leading the life of a single life away from their families prompts some of them to seek illicit ways to satisfy their natural instinct. Sometimes that leads to rape and murder, as the Monica Ghurde case shows.
It is not possible for the police to provide security to all citizens. So, private security guards are going to be there. The private security agencies therefore have a major responsibility to ensure safety to the people who entrust them with the job. The private security agencies cannot escape the blame by saying they do all the checks, but cannot rule out individual delinquency. The character, behavior and the crimes of the men appointed and posted by them reflects on the character of the agencies. Their accountability is primary. They have to do full screening before appointing anyone and have to constantly monitor their behaviour with a regular feedback in order to prevent crimes from taking place. The guards should be professionally trained and adequately paid, so they could afford to live with their wives. Adequate income and family presence would keep them happy. They would also do their duties diligently.
Installation of CCTV cameras by building societies should be taken up in order to maintain vigilance. The government agencies charged with checking whether labour rules and minimum wages were followed or not by the private security agencies must do it honestly. They should not restrict their work just to checking of agency record books but also carry out periodical ground-level surveys to see whether the guards hired by them were properly trained and whether they had been given the required facilities to discharge their duties. The government, while seeking the help of private security agencies in curbing crime and protecting life and property of people, must make it compulsory for the agencies to adhere to standards in recruitment, training, wage payment and monitoring of services of their men.

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