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Friday, September 11, 2009

Guarding the nation

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Private security industry in India has seen a remarkable rise in recent years. This is primarily led by rise in number of business and residential campuses and rise in terrorists incidents over the years. However what counts as security leaves much to be desired and guards standing with their uniforms on are suited to tasks no better than shoeing away an occasional dog or beggar.

It’s not their fault really. They are on a job for which they are not trained. Being able to notice suspect in crowd, being able to detect suspicious behaviour, and being able to respond and fight back if need arise are skills which require professional training and armaments. Instead of that what they are given is nothing. What they are asked to do is even ridiculous and mostly beyond their comprehension. How many times did you wonder if the guard at mall checking metal objects on your body knows about meaning of beeps on his instrument? I cannot recollect having seem them acting differently whether it beeps or not. They do it merely as ritual, a job they have been asked to do. Another strange things that they do in residential and business campuses is to use a mirror to check under the car. One is not sure what they are looking for if not for a bomb with clear red lights blinking. I have not seen or heard of such practice anywhere else in the world but it seems staple of Indian security organizations. Some go as far as to check trunk and bonnet of the car but don’t bother about looking inside car or under seats. So best place to carry a gun would indeed be in your hands were you to want to sneak one. My recent visit to Bombay after last tragic attack highlighted reactive nature of our fight against terrorism. Hotels are now required to screen you and your luggage ala airport security at their front gate.

In office complex I work, I will be let inside if I show them my ID card. Let me rephrase that. I will be let in if they see something hanging from my neck. I am certain that they don’t know which companies are in complex and what their ID looks like. They probably can’t read as well nor they ask me to turn around my card if it happened to be face down. In my previous college, security will not stop you at gate if you didn’t look like poor labourer. It’s all about appearance: good clothes and car, and you can’t be terrorist really.

On a related note, anyone who has lived in hostels in India can testify the futility of having to note down one’s name and contact details on security register when visiting ladies hostels. This is purely because self reported entry cannot really be depended upon to be truthful were one to have intention to appear otherwise, and also because mostly illiterate guards cannot decipher what, and if something, has been written in the first place. No wonder people would write whatever they had in mind including ‘Superman’ as name.
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