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

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New Delhi: Rakesh Kumar was 58 when he lost his job in a fabric factory and was looking for work. He saw an advertisement on a utility pole set up by a private security agency looking to hire guards. He called the number, was asked to come in for an interview the next day, and was hired.

Has he had any training?

“They taught me how to use firefighting equipment on the job and told me to talk to people politely, not much else. I quit my job a few months later because there were long working hours and I joined this company,” says Kumar, who currently works in a wine shop in Mayur Vihar. “Nobody would have hired me at this age for another job, otherwise I wouldn’t wouldn’t want to do that at my age,” he said.

More (untrained) guards than cops

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

Search by The Guardian, published in 2017, said there were around seven million private security workers in India, compared to 1.4 million police officers – the largest disparity in the world. According to Freedonia, a trade research agency, the private security industry is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 15% to reach 1.6 lakh crore by 2024, doubling from 80,000 crores in 2019.

This growing demand means that many unlicensed private security firms continue to proliferate. Kunwar Vikram Singh, chairman of CAPSI, says India has about 23,000 private security agencies, and about 50% of them are unlicensed. “And 50% of the 9 million guards would not be trained. Most untrained guards are hired by unlicensed security agencies,” Singh said. “At the heart of the problem, most states have failed to strictly enforce the Private Security Agencies Regulation Act of 2005 (PSARA).”

The law, passed in 2007, prescribes eligibility for a license for a private security agency and eligibility to become a security guard. New model rules were created by the Union Home Office in December last year. According to the 2007 law, a guard must complete 162 hours of training. This includes driving in public; respect the dress code (one uniform); physical training; learn building/apartment security, staff security protocols; fight against the fire ; crowd control; and identification of improvised explosive devices, among others.

But talk to the guards in Delhi and most of them will tell you that they haven’t had the training required by law. “All they taught me was how to greet and speak politely to residents of the housing company I work in, and how to use the firefighting equipment installed in the building,” says Sumit Kumar , 32, security guard in Noida.

The fault of the agencies

In 2019, the home department of Delhi issued a public notice highlighting the prevalence of unlicensed private security firms in the capital. Among other things, the letter said: “It has been observed that [the] a number of private security agencies operate without obtaining the required license…those hired as security professionals also do not receive the proper training according to the prescribed curriculum.

According to an industry estimate, Delhi has around 4,000 private security agencies and around 400,000 private security guards. The gap in the training of private security guards can also be gauged from the huge gap between the number of private security agencies and security guards in the National Capital Region of Delhi and the number of people trained in training centers recognized by the government.

Take, for example, Previse Security Training Institute, the capital’s premier 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 by law. Barely 500 guards have come since 2012 when the training center was established,” says Deep Chand, founder-director of the institute and a retired officer from the Indian Police Service (IPS). The Mehrauli Institute, spread over five acres, offers a range of courses for private security personnel.

“The bitter truth is that many of these private security companies are only interested in obtaining training certificates rather than investing in training their guards,” he adds.

Colonel KK Singh, who runs the Olive Heritage Training Institute in Gurugram, agrees: “Many private security agencies hire retired military or police officers who are projected as their main managers and trainers to gain trust. People. But even they must be trained according to the law to work with a private security agency.

In RWAs, untrained and unappreciated

Sudhir Bhasin, Elite Security, a Delhi-based private security firm, says it is mainly Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) who hire unlicensed private security firms. “It is because most RWAs in Delhi are not willing to pay minimum wage. Most guards work 12 hours and RWAs pay [them] only for eight hours,” Bhasin said. “There is no empathy for them. While people are always pointing out their little lapses, there is never a word of appreciation for them. They don’t understand the hard life of a goalkeeper who works 12 hours per day,” says Bhasin.

“An RWA is the most difficult publication. Many residents, especially office staff, treat you as their personal guard. I’m supposed to make sure no one parks in their parking lot, picks up couriers while they’re away, and more. And there’s hardly ever a word of praise,” said Rajneesh Singh, a caretaker with the Rohini Housing Corporation.

“There are times when I work 48 hours in a row because the night watchman doesn’t come. I don’t get any paid leave. I don’t have any training, but it’s my agency’s fault,” he adds.

In 2019, Delhi Cooperative Societies Assistant Registry issued a public notice advising all Cooperative Housing Societies to seek security services from agencies registered and licensed under the PSARA Act with the Government of Delhi . But Atul Goyal, President of United Residents Joint Action (URJA), said: “Unlike businesses, RWAs have financial constraints, but they only engage security through registered agencies and pay the minimum wage in accordance to the law. ”

The increase in demand

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

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

Ajay Kumar Gupta, Special Secretary, Delhi Government Headquarters, the regulator of private security agencies in Delhi under the PSARA law, said his department had so far issued licenses to around 2,200 agencies in Delhi, and about 800 of them were in the last six months alone.

“Around 400 cases are pending with us which we will resolve in two months. We are streamlining the entire licensing process and putting it online. We have asked private security agencies to digitally submit training certificates to us Now, rangers can only train at a training center that is registered with the National Skills Development Board and follows the National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF) and their agency,” says Gupta.

Needed: An active civil society

And what about actions against unlicensed agencies?

“I haven’t received any complaints about agencies operating without a license. It’s virtually impossible for us to keep tabs on every security agency and their guards. People will need to make sure they’re hiring from a licensed agency and verify the training certificates of their guards. We need the active support of civil society for better law enforcement,” he added.

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

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