Plus & Minus

“A weekly column: Plus&Minus will be published in Hindustan Times, Jaipur Live. This will speak to the ordinary reader on contemporary economic issues in a simple format”.

    Private security industry grows by leaps and bounds
    Hindustan Times, Jaipur Live, June 16, 2009

By Pradeep S Mehta

If you walk through any upper middle and rich houses in Jaipur or any other metro, you will see a box at the gate housing a private security guard. It is not just a status symbol, but is a necessity because of the threats and disorderliness.

Apparently, the police force has failed to come up to the citizens’ expectations to provide the security and consequently, the private security industry in India is growing at a faster pace than the police force.

What was more surprising was a call for tenders by the Haryana Government from private security agencies on May 30th to provide the services of gunmen at the depots of Haryana Roadways. So, the roadways want gunmen to guard their property. Usually, the government gets the services of local police with or without arms to guard, protect and keep away troublemakers.

The lack of confidence in police and the judiciary has provided e opportunities for private entrepreneurs to set up private security agencies. Consider these facts: The total number of people in the police force in India is around 1.5 million. By contrast, according to a Survey report, private security agencies are expected to employ as many as 10 million people over the next 5 years.

According to the Central Association of Private Security Industry, annual turnover of the segment touched Rs.22, 000 crore last year and is growing at a rate of 25-30 per cent per annum. Experts in the industry maintain that private security industry are relevant because it is almost impossible for the government agencies to ensure round-the-clock security that private security guards can provide. Already the ratio of private security personnel to police in India is 2:1 and will be 3:1 soon.

The Indian Police Act, which is the backbone for the functioning of our police system, was passed in 1861. Therefore, the framework of the functioning of our police is almost 150 years old.

The symptoms of the malaise that afflicts our criminal justice system are we have under-invested in training our police, modernising the police force, in the investigative capabilities of our police and there is a lack of accountability and responsiveness of the system. This has resulted is erosion in public confidence in our criminal justice system.

Given the problems in our criminal justice system, why should growth in private security agencies complicate matters? The perception of safety in our privately guarded offices and homes means that the public pressure to invest more in our criminal justice system becomes lower.

All development will depend on whether the state is able to safeguard the life and property of its citizens.

In a sense, therefore, the basic functions of the government boil down to ensuring law and order and justice, and providing a social security net for the weaker and neglected sections of society, which have been neglected by the state all these years.

From this perspective, the challenges in the field of police reforms are crucial.

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