At 7 million, the Private Security Sector is double the strength of all our security forces put together. It’s a huge resource that can boost our internal security capabilities to start with, and even be of help to the armed forces, should we adopt the US model in Afghanistan or Iraq, someday. However, the General writes, that they need to be properly trained and suitably equipped to be the eyes and ears of our police forces, as a first step.
Private Security Sector: Force Multiplier for India’s Internal Security
A review of the security situation in our country barely holds out the hope of an improved scenario in the near future. The proxy war directed by our neighbours, Left Wing Extremism, deteriorating law and order, migration of rural population to choked urban centres, unemployable youth with neither skills nor academic qualifications and numerous other related factors, paint a grim picture. The rising crime rates and decadence in moral values are some of the manifestations of our flawed educational system and governance. Amongst numerous thrusts that India needs to pursue, to ensure that we do not stumble in our pre-ordained march to be a leading regional/global power; security is an aspect that needs to be given top priority.
The Security Envelope
In our country, the security concerns can broadly be categorized into External Security and Internal Security including Community Security, for which the Armed Forces (1.3 million), Central Armed Police Forces (one million) and State/UT Police (1.9 million) are responsible, respectively. The police to population ratio in India is dismally low at 1.30 : 1,00,000, despite exponential increase of almost 100% in the strength of Police Forces in the last two decades, which is not only a significant economic burden on the country, but a retrograde influence on development, as well.
The challenges of Community Security are increasing by the day; which has put immense pressure on the Police Forces and indirectly on the Armed Forces. How long can this trend of raising Police Forces continue? To offset the imbalance, the Armed Forces are gradually getting sucked into Internal Security duties and at times, even for Community Security. This is indeed a disturbing trend for any nation.
The time has come to introspect and find answers from within our resources. Besides optimization of the Armed Forces and the Police Organisations, we have to look at alternate resources. The answer perhaps lies in optimal utilistaion of the existing force of 7 million “Private Security Sector” (PSS). The prime responsibility of “Community Security” must rest with the PSS; so that the Armed Forces and the Police can be relieved for their respective primary roles.
Optimisation of Private Security Sector
Fact File of PSS in India: India has the largest PSS in the world. At 7 million today, it is rapidly growing at almost 20% annually, directly related to the country’s economic growth. The workforce, both Armed Private Security and Unarmed Private Security, is being deployed in various areas of Community Security.
Performance of PSS: Today, the PSS lacks proper training, motivation, self-esteem and wages/incentives. It is an exploited workforce by the service providers and end users to promote their commercial interests. Despite this, the low cost PSS is performing an admirable task of providing residential, industrial, commercial and personal security in India.
Ex- Servicemen and Police Factor: With a preponderance of personnel retired from armed forces, police and para – military forces in its supervisory, middle and senior management rungs, the PSS has the necessary expertise for employment on security related tasks, in addition to its primary tasks of guarding. Even the ownership profiling of the PSS reflects a similar mix with ex-service personnel owning large companies.
Envisaged Roles for PSS: The PSS is capable of undertaking a number of roles and responsibilities presently being undertaken by the Armed Forces and Police. Some cases in point about direct role of PSS are that of the recent Iraq and Afghanistan wars, wherein the PSS was successfully utilized for assisting the Armed Forces in guarding of bases, logistics dumps, vulnerable / high profile targets, static establishments, convoy protection, road-opening duties, personal protection and a hoard of other duties. These tasks can be undertaken by non-regulars, both during peace and war. Likewise, the PSS can undertake guarding services/duties in railways, airports, shipyards, harbours; VIP protection, traffic control, duties related to women’s safety; riot control, disaster management, serving as eyes and ears of Police, and many more.
Push Model: The inclusion of PSS in the overall security envelope can be put into practice by a push model i.e. PSS performing some of the existing Police roles, as mentioned above, and consequently relieving the Police to perform some of the roles presently being undertaken by the Armed Forces, as defined above. Given requisite training and provided necessary equipment, the PSS can prove to be the proverbial force-multiplier. The execution of such a proposal is at very low costs as compared to raising new police battalions and would result in ‘overall force multiplication’.
Presently, the security pundits have a fixation about traditional methodologies of addressing the two major segments of the security envelope (external and internal security), by the Armed Forces and Police respectively. It is unfortunate that the Security Guard is equated with casual labour and demeaned by a “Chowkidar” culture. Moreover, the involvement of PSS within the security loop is perceived as encroachment in the Police territory; therefore the resistance from them. Obviously the larger picture is being missed out, particularly by those who matter.
Unless the nuances of the overall security envelope (including the vital PSS resource) are clearly comprehended and utilised, we have numerous cross-roads and obstacles ahead. In its present state, the PSS is definitely not in a position to offset the roles of Armed Forces and the Polic, primarily due to poor standards of training, motivation, self-esteem and wages/incentives. Consequently, the empowerment of the PSS for the envisaged role has to be addressed at the highest level.
A study needs to be undertaken to identify softer police functions that could be handed over to the PSS; which could initially be discharged jointly by Police and PSS, followed by PSS alone, with marginal Police supervision retained in more critical areas.
Currently, our archaic legal provisions do not empower the PSS to undertake policing functions with the legal support mechanism to intervene in situations calling for police action. The basic functional requirement of an armed personal protection officer to even use a fire arm to protect his charge in the event of an assault is not provided for in the law. The incorporation of new legal frameworks will be a major area of focus.
The PSS will require adequate training to come at par with police forces and be competent to undertake the latter’s role. Training is also required to generate confidence in the citizens about the PSS.
A study of available options to undertake up-skillibg of PSS is required. The State alone, or PSS by itself, cannot undertake the funding of the required training endeavor for PSS upgradation. It would be more prudent to generate funding on a PPP model, with post-employment generation of revenue by the PSS being factored into the equation. Perhaps, soft loans for training coupled with financial assistance from the state, with an initial moratorium on repayment may be a viable option.
Every Private Security Agency (PSA), and we have them in thousands in our country, may not be suitable for replacing the Police in nominated sectors. The evolving of a rating system to classify different PSAs in their readiness states for such responsibilities would be essential. The methodology of arriving at such gradation without the feasibility of its being challenged in a court of law is a necessity.
Currently, the intake quality that our PSS manages to attract is perhaps the one at the bottom of the pyramid. It’s the last preference of the school dropouts who have little or no motivation to up skill themselves. The eco system that the PSS offers is hardly the best, conducive environment urging an individual to reach his full potential. Due attention will need to be paid to career pathways within the PSS, governance and a system that rewards high-performers.
The maturing of the PSS to a level where it can occupy the same space as police forces will require large scale technology induction. The move calls for adequate funding, training and change of operational methods. The issue will pose difficulties that can be clubbed as modernization challenges and would need to be suitably analyzed and addressed.
In conclusion the following quote by President of US, Mr. Barack Obama is highly apt in the Indian context, which the Americans have proved in Afghanistan and Iraq wars:-
“We cannot continue to rely only on our military, for National Security. We must have a civilian or a private security force that is just as powerful, strong and well-funded”.
The PSS can be the eyes and ears of the Police forces, to start with. To address our security concerns, which are increasing by the day, perhaps the only option is to upgrade our PSS and make it a potent “force multiplier”.
Maj Gen DK Jamwal (Retired)
(The author, after his tenure in the Army, was the CEO, Security Sector Skill Development Council.)
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of BharatShakti.in)