Identity crisis for CISF as private sector seeks protection

By Sahil Makkar, IANS,

New Delhi : The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) says maintaining its ethos and image as a paramilitary force will be a challenge now that the private sector is queuing up for protection from its highly trained personnel in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks. It has already received applications from 51 companies, including from the Taj and Marriott hotel groups.

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“With this it has become a big challenge for us to maintain our ethos,” CISF Director General N.R. Das told IANS.

The government cleared the CISF (Amendment) Bill 2008 last month to allow the private sector to take security from the force which earlier catered only to the public sector and private-public sector companies.

Its over 100,000 personnel currently guard vital installations like airports, the Delhi Metro, seaports and atomic centres across the country and important sites like the Taj Mahal.

“We are a unique force on our own and we are not dependent on others for anything. But yes it also a challenge for us to maintain our imag,” Das said when asked if the force would now be perceived as a mere security agency like other private security groups.

The CISF chief said in order to protect the force’s image, it would only provide security on a priority basis. So far it has not given protection to any private company.

“Our first priority will be companies in the oil, IT, power, airport and seaport sectors, as these companies are vital for the industrial and economical growth of the country. Then we will provide security to companies in militancy-affected areas.”

“Our next priority will be companies which make heavy investment. And it is very clear in our guidelines that whatever company we provide, our services, our personnel will operate under the command of their superiors only. They are not answerable to the management of the company,” he added.

He said the force is hiring 10,000 more constables to cater to the demand posed by the private sector.

But it may not be easy to provide this manpower.

“We are short of staff everywhere. We have to double our strength at the Delhi Metro stations. It will be difficult for us to cater to such a huge demand,” said a senior official.

M.S. Bali, CISF’s additional director general, told IANS there was a shortage of men at the Delhi airport.

“There is always a shortage at the airport and it will remain for sometime. We are addressing this problem, but there is no compromise in our duties whatsoever and our men are doing a great job,” said Bali, in-charge of CISF personnel who guard 57 airports across the country.

Bali, however, said the frequency of high alerts at airports had gone down in 2008 compared to 2007. “That happened because inputs by intelligence agencies were properly examined and verified before sounding alerts. It has given reprieve to our men who used to remain on constant high alert.”

Das said especially after the Mumbai terror attack they were now receiving specific inputs from intelligence agencies.

(Sahil Makkar can be contacted at [email protected])