With national security assuming greater criticality, the Private Security Sector with its huge manpower can actually prove to be a force multiplier. It can relieve our police forces from a lot of duties leaving these forces free to focus on the vulnerable areas. However, the sector needs to be organized far better and adopt higher training standards. Its services also need to be consistent. The author examines the current state of the PSS and assesses the wherewithal required to go forward for revamping the sector.
PRIVATE SECURITY INDUSTRY IN INDIA – HAS IT COME OF AGE?
The private security sector has emerged into a major industry by virtue of employment of large body of manpower, both skilled and unskilled, to meet the burgeoning demands of the corporate sector across the SMSE spectrum. Key drivers for the exponential growth of this sector is attributed to the increase in urbanization, increasing perception of insecurity amongst the civil community, emergence of contained commercial complexes and residential townships, shortage of police personnel and finally the fact that running a security agency is currently a profitable business model due to limited government oversight on quality, the willingness of clients to compromise on standards and the large numbers of agencies that make monitoring an administrative challenge.
The expectation from this sector will increase exponentially when under the Make in India, Digital India, Smart Cities program and other initiatives, the distinction between public and private sector will get blurred, as strategic sectors will be thrown open to participation by corporate players both Indian and foreign. This brings in its wake major threats and challenges to national security.
Strategic importance of Private Security Industry in India
National security is no longer seen in its narrow military terms. It has now more stake holders than ever before with many new private, corporate, Non-governmental Agencies including government sponsored, think-tanks and academia participating in its ambit. The government too realizes that this accretion will add to India’s national comprehensive strength. There is also the technology factor that is becoming the driver for rapid economic development. Technology therefore is going to be the key for the government to dominate the security and intelligence space in the country. In this scheme of things, the corporate industry in India has a strategic role to play.
The private security sector is the link between the government and the needs of the industry. The undermentioned credentials are worthy of consideration:
- India’s largest corporate tax payer.
- Provides employment to approximately over 7 million personnel.
- Private Security Sector is worth approx. INR 400 Billion.
- Expected Growth 20% CAGR.
- Predominant presence in Tier-I and Tier-II cities, though operating in approximately 550 districts across the country.
- Initiatives of Smart Cities, Make in India and Digital India along with the Retail Boom and Urbanization will demand a change in the way the industry operates currently.
- Attracting significant interest from international and domestic investors.
- Small firms will find it difficult to survive the growing quality and transparency demands from Customers and the Government.
- Consolidation/buy out of multiple small firms to capture large slice of the market pie is around the corner too.
- PSA are a lucrative target for investors as they have a unique capacity to merge High Growth Rate with High RoCE.
- Integration between Corporate Insurance and High End/ Professional Security Services is also another area of development
- Major growth spurt expected in Tier – III cities.
The resources of the central and state governments to protect national assets/ interests are stretched to the limit and at current rate it will be well-nigh impossible for it to extend its limited resources to other areas. It remains a fact that the central government and the state governments have devoted less attention to creating credible alternative systems to take on responsibilities of “watch and ward” , “research and development” from the state institutions. The focus of security solutions in India has remained state-centric with emphasis on prevention of terrorist type attacks, and is still at a preliminary stage of conceptualization with regards to everyday security concerns of the common man as well as the safety and security of critical corporate infrastructure. The ability of the corporate sector to protect itself against hazards of industrial espionage, subversion and sabotage remain almost next to nil. This situation is worrisome and demands cogent solution.
The central government would need to positively re-examine the importance and relevance of the private sector security industry in today’s environment. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is the nodal ministry in supervising the provisions of the Private Security Agencies Regulation Act (PSARA) and it is looking at it from a purely regulatory point of view. The role of the state governments and union territories is mentioned in the PSAR Act. The situation is far from satisfactory. There are many factors that have contributed to this parlous state of affairs. Some are highlit as follows :-
- Delay in implementation of PSAR related compliance.
- Relative simplicity and ease in starting a security company by any and every one, facilitates the existence of some Private Security Agencies (PSA) providing substandard services. There are no pre-conditions for establishment of PSAs.
- Due to mismatch in demand and supply (30%), almost 99% of barely literate and untrained personnel are absorbed by PSA and deployed.
- Suboptimal utilization of technology, leading to an over dependence on manpower with uncertain antecedents and professional capability.
- Poor career growth (from a Guard to Supervisor at best), lack of fair employment practices, in-humane work conditions and poor financial stability.
- Lack of stringent enforcement by the government, on both; the Clients who seek services and the PSA’s who provide services, to adhere to basic central and state regulatory mechanisms, intended towards addressing the above concerns (Minimum wages, equal opportunity employment, statutory disbursements, labor laws pertaining to women etc.)
The union government has adopted a ‘battalion” or “mathematical” approach in its internal security management. Despite the creation of several government organizations and agencies with preventive, investigative and executive functions, the security environment remains fragile creating groundswell for further accretion to ranks of central agencies. There is no evidence as yet that the government is contemplating development of private security industry as a joint venture partner to securing the interests of the corporate sector. Unfortunately, the space for the private security industry is limited by lack of patronage by the government.
The salient point is for the government to create space for the industry to assume responsibility in areas, where skills and expertise are required leading to substitution of government forces/agencies and ultimate deployment to other critical areas. There are several areas where private security industry can be expected to assume leading role in securing domestic airports, minor seaports, non-sensitive railway installations and later metro stations. Obviously, induction of PSA into in this domain has to be done after careful thought and examination of statutory and legal provisions. There is a growing school of thought that central organizations such as the Railway Protection Force (RPF) and Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) must shed their “watch and ward” roles at installations cited above.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) would need to bring in other ministries and departments to the PSARA platform, such as Ministry of Skills Development, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Information Technology, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Ministry of Labor, Industry and Commerce to make the governance of private sector security industry more broad based. The need to create an apex industry association is necessary to ensure greater interaction with the government with advice, suggestions and recommendations.
Today the scope of a PSG (Private Security Guard) has expanded considerably to include prevention of industrial espionage, high value asset protection, Facility management, Management of electronic security systems and emergency response to name a few. However, the response from PSAs in general does not adequately come up to the mark in terms of a consistency in quality of personnel, service delivery and accountability.
Despite the fact that PSGs today provide skilled technical services like manage X-Ray machines, metal detectors, dog squads, ERT, Body guarding, bomb & explosive detection, CCTV surveillance etc., as per the Central and State Minimum Wages Act, they are still categorized as Unskilled / Semi-Skilled Workers.
The change in perception has to start from somewhere and legislation is by far one of the best means to initiate a change that has potential national security repercussions.
There are several areas for discussions, which will lead to creation of considerable employment opportunities in this sector. Some of these may be elaborated on as follows:-
· Security Sector Skills Development:
Investment in human capital in this critical industry is vital in addressing vulnerabilities with twin objectives:
- preparing this industry to take on greater responsibilities in matters of employment, recruitment, training, evaluation of existing skills and preparation of perspective plan
- act as an effective liaison between stakeholders. The intention is to create groundswell of talent to become effective line of defense in corporate sector.
- The creation of subsidiary SSSD councils at Bangalore, Kolkata, Guwahati, Chattishgarh, Pune and Chandigarh under the ministry of skills development and empowerment to cater to regional needs is important.
· Empowering PSA / PSG’s
- Clearly define the power / authority of a certified and legally appointed PSG, since in most cases, the PSG is the first line of response or defense.
- Pass law that empowers PSG’s with the Right of Detention until local authorities take command of the situation.
- Legislation to provide access to Specialist Personnel by Govt. Authorities, for Security Tasks, wherein government agencies, LEA etc. may reach out to specialist ‘on call’ personnel, who are employed in PSA’s on a case to case basis, in times of emergency or crises. Many PSA’s employ ex-Special Forces personnel, NSG, Intelligence officers etc. who collectively constitute a trained and experienced resource pool as a force multiplier.
· Categorize Agencies as per Services Provided and Create Minimum Standard Guidelines :-
- Considering the wide diversity of operations, both general and specialized, a common PSAR Act that is limited in depth and scope will need to be revised and independent Minimum Standard Guidelines created, for – Cash Transit, ERT, Close Protection, Manned Guarding, Armed Personnel, Electronic Security.
- The Private Detective Agency Regulation Act remain pending till date.
· Regulation of Private Firms Providing Cyber Security Services
- M2M connectivity, Smartphone connectivity is expected to increase by 18% and 14% CAGR respectively. Cyber-crimes, attacks, espionage, warfare and Harmful Content are a clear and present danger. Every advancement brings an added and new risks. Mitigation is the only solution.
- Cyber risks are unique as any electronic platform is vulnerable, attacks can be launched from anywhere, Vulnerability exploitation methods are available on various open source forums and effective, robust defense is expensive.
- Multiple organizations offer cyber security solutions in India, through various tools and methodologies. By definition, Cyber Security is itself a form of security wherein high value assets (personnel, material and data) are protected via the services of third party agency.
- The antecedents of the agencies entrusted with sensitive data, their internal checks and balances, internal policies etc. must be considered before considering their involvement in any security related exercise.
· Resource & Skill Harnessing Through PPP
PPPs are all about balance: maintaining equilibrium between public and private, risk and reward, cost and impact. Understanding this balance and leveraging its potential, especially in areas characterized by a low average income, high tribal population, very high incidence of poverty, and little social development would open up a vast potential of employment opportunities in areas that are remote , vulnerable and do not benefit from the proximity to centers of economy and power.
The private security sector in India is already a major contributor towards providing gainful employment to a vast majority of people who by virtue of economy, education and other factors, would typically be challenged to find a decent alternative to unemployment.
The overall intention is not to deprive these resource pool by regulating and creating standards that they cannot (yet) meet, but to :-
Firstly, create guidelines of eligibility, at and employee and employer level. This should go hand in hand with reforms and revisions in legislation at both Central and State levels.
Secondly, create the means by which this potential work force may apply for affordable training and certification, making them eligible as per guidelines framed by the Center and the State Governments.
Thirdly, through differentiation between conventional / general security and specialized security services, ensure that we tap into the vast potential of both former civil and military personnel/ Law Enforcement/Intelligence personnel, who can easily step up to the demands of specialized services in the civil / corporate vertical.
Finally, create a pan India format, no different from any other skilled professional course (Engineering, Medicine, Management etc.) for the various levels and types of private security training that is required by the Indian market.
(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)