NEW DELHI: “Our job is to inform police and not fight terrorists. We are unarmed. We will run away,” says Manish, a private security guard deployed at Connaught Place, when asked about the standard security drill for a terror attack. Seven-hundred private security firms operate in the capital, which is on the high alert after the Dhaka attacks. They guard places with large public footfalls like malls, hotels, markets, bus and railway stations. The Sunday Standard reality check throws up horrifying results. The informal Standing Operating Procedure (SoP) of private guards deployed outside most high-end restaurants, including in Lutyens’ Delhi, is ‘Dial 100 and flee.’ They have undergone just 45 days of mandatory training by the state government.
Owner of Rakshak Securities Private Limited Vijay Singh says the guards are required to inform the police during a terror attack or after spotting the bad guy with a gun.
The posh Khan market, a favourite hangout spot among the trendy and foreigners that has around 315 shops has only three check posts, one protected by two Nagaland Police armed constables in a bunker at the entry. Most shops do not even have a private security guard.
And this is the condition of the Capital’s upscale shopping and hangout zone.
Ashok Verma of Rajputana Security, who guards the entrance of Smoke House Deli, says: “If someone comes in with a gun my only option is to run. I have is no insurance, and with a salary of `10,000 do they expect me to jump in front of a gun?” he asks.
Sanjeev Khatri, president of Khan Market Traders Association says that 24 CCTV cameras capture every movement and are monitored by the Delhi Police. “But if someone comes out of a car and starts shooting then what can anyone do?” he asks. Umang Tiwari, a restaurateur who owns Garam Dharam, OMG, OTB, Junkyard and Vault Café says markets are the most vulnerable since it’s easy to plant a bomb anywhere. Connaught Place has no particular entry and exit point. Even with security, it is impossible to keep a track on all visitors. “We have introduced metal detectors but to be honest, I still don’t feel it is 100 per cent safe. We cannot rigorously frisk guests, who may take offence,” Tiwari said.
CP’s only deterrent is three PCR vans deployed in the Inner Circle. Of the five bomb blasts that claimed 20 lives on 13 September 2008, two were near Palika Bazar. However, the entrance to the underground complex has ramshackle metal detectors and ill equipped security guards who are in poor physical shape. The Bazar witnesses around 10,000 visitors daily. Although, metal detectors are installed at all entries to Central Park, the male and female private guards have no explosives training.
Security guard Rajesh said; “We are overworked, and sometimes are on daily duty 14 hours a day for just Rs 8000 a month. We cannot even handle local goons since we have no batons or fiber sticks.”
The single private guard meant to guard the main gate of the Handloom Haat on Janpath, which is hosting the National Handloom exhibition was found sitting under the shade of a tree; no metal detector, no security check. Our visits to South Extension, Chandani Chowk, Karol Bagh, Greater Kailash and other markets revealed similar situations.
Malls have more security guards. Metal detectors are working and every visitor is frisked. But they posses no weapons or the training needed to tackle terror attacks. On June 20, an intelligence alert warned shopping malls and hotels to beef up their security. Anupam Sharma, Mall Manager, DLF Emporio Vasant Kunj and DLF Promenade Vasant Kunj said he has two tiers of private security guards conducting regular drills to deal with emergencies.
“Our X-ray machines are regularly serviced and there is always enough manpower to check each bag. We have also ensured there are enough relievers,” he said. A senior police officer said hotels have been asked to deploy at least four security guards at the main gate. Big hotels have been instructed to install wheeled bollards at the gates.
“All the hotel managers have been asked to install close-circuit television cameras on their premises and share the footage with the local police on a day to day basis,” he said.
Rajat Mankad, Chief Security Officer, Pride Plaza Hotel Aerocity said state-of-the-art equipment like under vehicle scanner systems, license plate readers, drivers’ images, visitor management systems and Radio Frequency Reader IDs have been installed at the defence perimeter.
“All records show up in the cabin computer after verification and physical checking at the gate. Then only is the guest permitted in. The same goes for employees. Another check is done the entrance of the lobby.”
The Private Security Agencies (Regulation) Act 2005 makes it mandatory for every guard to undergo at least 160 hours of training—100 hours of classroom learning and 60 hours of on-the-job training.
“However, many security agencies openly flout the norms. No strong mechanism exists to monitor the negligence of security agency owners,” says Deep Chand, who runs the Previse Security and Legal Institute. Chand, who retired as Special Commissioner, Delhi Police alleges that the agencies are buying training certificates from institutes instead of their training staff. “This is a clear violation of the Act but Delhi government officers turn a blind eye,” he says.
The security guards at banks and ATMs are mostly retired ex-servicemen who carry outdated two bore shotguns to counter the sophisticated AK series rifles of terrorists.
Chand added that the 4,000 plus security guards deployed outside Delhi government buildings, schools and hospitals are untrained, though the agencies possess training certificates. Special Commissioner of Police SBK Singh says the police motivates other institutions with high footfalls to keep rigorously trained private guards. The private guardians of the city’s security are a disgrace.
(With inputs from Siddhanta Mishra)