Terror-proof security by private agencies long way off

By Maitreyee Boruah, IANS,

Bangalore : Notwithstanding the Karnataka government’s suggestion that major private firms in Bangalore arrange their own security, it could remain a dream for a long time as private security providers in India’s tech hub say they are ill-prepared and poorly-equipped for the task.

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“We’re planning to revise our entire working system,” said Narendra Kumar Sharma, director of Vigilance 24X7 Security and Allied Services Pvt Limited, located in upscale Indiranagar, around 10 km from the city centre.

“But that would take us some time. Moreover, we would need better weapons to fight terrorists as they are using latest technologies,” Sharma told IANS.

“Except for single and double barrel guns, private security guards in the country are not allowed to use weapons like assault rifles and pistols,” said P. Ravindranath, chairman of Private Eye (P) Ltd, also located in Indiranagar.

“It is sad that we are still managing with outdated weapons,” he said, adding that though the Private Security Agencies (Regulation) Act 2005 has regularized the industry, a licence to get sophisticated weapons was not being granted.

Sharma and Ravindranath were among the private security providers that IANS spoke to on their preparedness following Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa’s suggestion that all major private organisations and business establishments in Bangalore should themselves look after their security.

He made the suggestion at a meeting with heads and representatives of leading IT and BT firms, multinational companies, hotels, shopping complexes and industry and commerce chambers following the Mumbai attack Nov 26.

Bangalore faced its first major terror strike when the sprawling, leafy Indian Institute of Science (IISc) was attacked in December 2005 during an international conference. M.C. Puri, Professor Emeritus of the Institute of Technology, Delhi, was killed in the indiscriminate firing and four were injured.

In the second attack in July this year, a series of eight low-intensity explosions hit the city, killing one woman and injuring 15 others.

“The city too has experienced terror attacks in recent times. Thus we cannot take any risk. It is better that all the private companies and business establishments in the city too take care of their own security and become more vigilant,” said M.R. Pujar, additional commissioner of police, Bangalore city (Law and Order).

“The police too is doing its duty, but we don’t have that kind of massive force to provide security to thousands of companies and residential complexes in the city,” he said.

Following the Mumbai attack, all major private firms, hotels and shopping complexes and malls in the city have beefed up security. Many are installing CCTV (Closed circuit Television), metal detectors at entrances and other gadgets.

“We are receiving queries from different corporate houses and residential complexes,” said S. Suresh, manager of Penguin Security Services and Enterprises, located in New Tharagupet.

Although there is no official figure on the number of security firms operating in Bangalore, unofficial estimates put it at around 150.

In most cases, the guards provided by these agencies are not armed. Even in the few establishments where they carry arms, they are basically small weapons, which are no match to AK-47s which the Mumbai attackers carried.

Pleading for allowing private security agencies to procure sophisticated weapons, Ravindranath said: “We are one of the highest tax payers in the country and the government needs to revise laws to make private security agencies stronger as the security force is not enough to man the entire country.”

These agencies get their men trained mostly by ex-army men or retired police personnel. Youngsters between 20 and 25 years are generally recruited by these agencies and they remain in service so long as they are fit and are not above the age of 45.

“The job is highly demanding and thus we recruit young blood and they work with us till they are fit. Retirement age is generally not fixed. Some agencies give retirement to their employees by the time they reach 45,” said K. Balasubramanium, business manager of Alert Security Agencies, located in Richmond Road in the CBD.