Given that the Capital has witnessed several terror strikes in the recent past, there is a constant emphasis on the part of security agencies to review threat perceptions and take appropriate measures.

Although paucity of human resources in police forces has necessitated inclusion of private agencies as a crucial component in the Capital’s security apparatus, there lies a huge challenge before the authorities to ensure that these agencies are properly equipped for an emphatic response to a crises situation.

Given that the Capital has witnessed several terror strikes in the recent past, there is a constant emphasis on the part of security agencies to review threat perceptions and take appropriate measures. While over a dozen people were killed in the Delhi High Court blast on September 7, 2011, the serial blasts in Connaught Place, Ghaffar Market and Greater Kailash claimed at least 25 lives in September 13, 2008.

“With limited manpower, it is not possible for us to deploy policemen at each and every place. In such a scenario, the role of private security agencies becomes important in filling the gap. However, they can be effective only when they are well trained in crisis management,” said a police officer.

With a view to institutionalising registration and regulation of private agencies, the Private Security (Regulation) Act was brought into force in 2005. The Act was notified by the Delhi Government in 2010, making it mandatory for the agencies to obtain a licence from the designated authority within a year. While Joint Secretary (Home) has been appointed as the Controlling Authority, the agencies are required to apply for the licence for which auditing is done by the Delhi Police’s licensing unit to ascertain whether they meet the eligibility criteria.

The Act lays down strict eligibility guidelines for the private agencies. For instance, the applicant must not have been convicted of any offence, dismissed or removed from government service on grounds of misconduct or moral turpitude, or must not have links with any organisation banned under any law on account of their activities posing threat to national security or public order. Besides, the companies having majority of foreign shareholders are also barred.

“The applicants are required to fill out a form, which is scrutinised by us. In most cases of rejections we have found that the applicants did not have the required training (indoor and outdoor) facilities,” says a police officer. Although a large number of agencies had submitted applications, 91 of them could clear the screening process.

Stating that private security agencies were equipping themselves with the latest gadgets, Central Association of Private Security Industry-India vice-chairman Captain (Retired) Kuldeep Singh said security personnel were being imparted rigorous physical and technical training. They undergo 100-hour training in handling of weapons in self-defence, deployment of weapons, emergency/quick response, threat assessment and other related subjects.

“They undergo an additional 60-hour physical training in the handling of metal detectors, scanners, security alarms, spy-cameras, closed-circuit television cameras, besides they are also trained to provide security cover to VIPs. The agencies are also conducting security audits of installations,” says Captain Singh, who runs S.D.S. Security (P) Limited in the Capital.

Regarding training facilities, Captain Singh said several training schools being run by private security agencies in Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, Chandigarh and Jaipur have been recognised. Some training schools are also being run with the assistance of the State Police. “We are getting all necessary support from government agencies,” says Captain Singh.

Selection of private security guards being the most important aspect, the law requires observance of certain standards to ensure that only bona fide candidates are inducted. The Act also recommends giving preference to people who have served in the armed forces, the police or home guards and thus are already well trained in security affairs.

Describing internal security as a collective responsibility, another police officer said private security agencies were also one of the stakeholders. “Periodic meetings are held with them at the district level to sensitise them on prevailing threat perceptions and discuss the measures to be taken,” says the officer.

Armed with metal detectors, communication devices or even weapons in some cases, private security personnel are increasingly playing a greater role in securing private establishments and premises in Delhi.

While in most cases the establishments monitor their work through deployment of cameras, thereby ensuring that they carry out their duties well, security experts believe that the quality of gadgets and the seriousness with which private agencies do their job leave ample scope for improvement.

At many locations, the security guards can be seen merely scanning cars entering hotels with a mere underbelly mirror or not paying much attention to people passing through door frame metal detectors. “Security is a painstaking exercise where you have to be right each time. One slip is enough to cost many their lives,” reminded a senior police officer, noting that the drill ahead of the Republic Day function is what sets the standards in Delhi when it comes to scanning a large number of people.

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