The sight of an armed guard may give one a sense of security, but more often than not, the private security agency that has deployed him, has done it in violation of norms. Two years ago, after the sensational murder of Pallavi Purkayastha, an advocate and daughter of a Delhi-based IAS officer, the Mumbai crime branch began strict drive against unauthorised security agencies. They cracked down on security agencies providing unauthorised arms to their guards along with bogus licence, and over 3,000 persons employed as security guards had to leave the city.
"After that incident, all police station were instructed to check whether security guards with guns, hired by commercial complexes and housing societies, had valid weapon licences. Following that, we took action against many agencies whose guards were not licensed to carry guns; some even had bogus licence," said a senior police officer.
"There total number of authorised security agencies in the city is around 10,000. These agencies have to follow a certain procedure when they hire guards with arms. But many agencies do not follow rules. The licence of a guard has to be checked and it also has to be verified whether he has registered it with the local police," said another officer.
"They should keep the photocopy of the licence and their records; arms cannot be handed over to anyone and everyone. And a security agency has to have permission to recruit and deploy armed guards," said an officer.
Sameer Mehta, owner of Mars Groups, which provides manpower, said: "I recently stopped providing armed guards because the maximum number of arms-licence holders are natives of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar or Kashmir who have licence from their respective states. Here the problem is, most of them have duplicate licences, and it's very difficult to verify them. Why should we take risk?"
"The Maharashtra government does not provide arms licence to individuals. And the business of providing armed guards is not as profitable as providing normal guards either. So we stopped it," he added.
"If the government doesn't want to give arms licence to individuals, it should make provisions for providing arms licence to 10-12 good private security agencies that fulfil govt norms. These agencies will take the responsibility keeping the arms safe. Such a scheme will also help provide employment to many," said CEO Swarn Salaria of TRIG Guards Force Limited.
One of the former ministers had sanctioned 150 arms licences to a private security agency. "If you can give one agency permission, why not others," Salaria asked.
"There are only around 120 registered private security agencies in the city which provide armed guards. However, there are more than a thousand unauthorised agencies providing armed guards," said Salaria.