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Private Security in India: Need to Empower, Arm and Skill

Senior journalist and communication strategist, A subject matter expert on bureaucracy, governance, PSUs, start-ups and policy matter.
Dec 22, 2017 12:56 PM 6 min read

The infamous Mumbai terror attacks in 2008 brought focus towards the private security in India. The guards of the Taj Hotel were the first ones to encounter the terrorists. What followed was a prolonged discussion on how the incident could have been less tragic had the guards been trained to face such a situation, and the need to modernise private security in India. However, almost 10 years down the line, nothing much seems to have changed. The INR40,000 crore industry is plagued with various functional and policy challenges which are hampering its growth.


A research conducted by a British daily newspaper, The Guardian, reveals that with 7 million security guards and 1.4 million police officers, India has five times as many private security guards than cops. According to another media report, over 250 private security agencies (PSAs) have deployed their guards in the NCR cities of Haryana. In Gurgaon alone, there are c. 35,000 private security guards as compared to 3,100 police personnel deployed in the city.


According to a 2015 National Crime Records Bureau report, there is one policeman for every 709 people in India. Experts attribute this low police-people ratio as one of the key reasons for the rapid growth of private security in India.


Some of the major PSAs firms in India are G4S, Security and Intelligence Services India (SIS), Peregrine, Securitas and Tops. According to an analysis by Grant Thornton, a US-based accounting and advisory organisation, these five companies collectively generate a revenue of INR 2,213 crore.




The security industry can be broadly classified into two categories — Security services segment and Security systems segment.


Security services segment: The private security services industry in India comprises the private manned security services and dominates the security industry in India. It has been into existence since the early 1960s and is the country's largest corporate tax payer.


Security systems segment: This segment covers security provided through electronic devices such as alarms, system integrators, CCTVs, intrusion detectors, door intercoms and access controls. The state-of-the-art control and command centre offering remote surveillance is also fast emerging in this segment.


A joint study by Grant Thornton and a major industry body, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), estimate that by 2020 the private security sector will jump 100% and become a INR80,000 cr industry owing to rapid infrastructural and economic development and the humungous opportunity presented by government initiatives like ‘Smart Cities’ and ‘Make in India’. The report states that the industry presently provides employment to over 8 million people and has the potential to become the second largest employment generator in the country.


However, shortage of skilled manpower, inadequately empowered workforce, policy-level challenges and lack of innovation can pose as potential obstacles to the growth of the sector.




Along with the economy, the rate of crime in India is also growing, leading to the need for efficient policing services. However, there has been a dearth of required skill sets among security personnel because of which PSAs are unable to counter new ways of committing crime.


In fact, Union Minister of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Dharmendra Pradhan while addressing the 'FICCI Private Security Industry Conclave 2017' held in New Delhi recently admitted that there is “a huge policy gap between private security industry and skill development which needed attention”.


Skewed wage patterns and no defined career progression poses an additional concern for the sector in retaining and attracting quality resources.


Lastly, the legal framework also does not adequately empower security personnel to discharge their duties efficiently.





Though India is going fast forward with respect to digital initiatives and innovations, the private security industry is yet to match the pace. This industry is still unable to fully harness the strength of technologies such as analytics, IoT, sensors, CCTVs and central command centres. Experts opine that technology should be a mainstream component of the private security sector and both the sectors should grow in parallel.




At present private security agencies (PSAs) are governed by the Private Security Agencies Regulation Act (PSARA), 2005 which has several loopholes. 


Absence of a clause on detainment: The Act does not provide any authority to a private security guard to detain any suspicious person. However, in some developed countries like Singapore, a security guard can officially detain a person in case of any cynicism, post which, Government authorities can take over the matter. In today’s scenario where private security guards are deployed at important installations like schools, residential and commercial complexes, ports, industrial parks, etc, this clause acts a barrier for proper discharge of duties of the security personnel.


Multiple regulations at the Central and State level: The Act necessitates obtaining separate approvals from the Centre and the States concerned for licences. This acts as a barrier to the operations for PSAs operating at pan-India level as different states have different requirements for police verification and different timelines for processing requests.


No clarity on terms related to procurement of arms by PSAs: PSARA has no clear definition on arms as well as armed security personnel. If PSARA is read in conjunction with the Arms Act, 1959, then according to the Arms Act, 1959, arms can only be procured by an individual. This leads to the conclusion that PSAs cannot procure arms and distribute them among their guards. Also, as per the Arms Act, 1959, firearms cannot be used beyond the territory issuing the firearm. This leads to various challenges like restrictions on recruitment of only armed personnel, i.e, individuals having licences for firearms, difficulty in transferring armed personnel to another territory and less armed personnel for cash management services. According to an official data, the private security sector caters to approximately 80,000 ATMs in the country for cash replenishment services. There are about 6,000 cash vans that operate across the country and carry approximately Rs 15,000 crore of cash every day. In view of the growing incidents of attacks on cash vans and private cash vaults, there is a need to review the clause of procurement of firearms by PSAs. Alternatively, the sector must be open to exploring the use of non-lethal weapons such as tasers, stun guns, pepper and mace sprays.




Given the low police to people ratio in India, PSAs can play a big role working along with the law enforcement agencies for providing allied policing services. However, this needs the backing of a robust policy reform and modernisation of the PSAs.


Since skilled manpower in the sector is an area of concern, experts feel that the Government should make security training mandatory and authorise specialized security academies for providing advanced training to private guards, technical as well as soft skills. Along with this, the guards must be  encouraged and appropriately trained to use non-lethal weapons.


Prakash Katoch, former Lieutenant General, Indian Army, observes, “Skill development (in the Private Security Sector) is a gigantic requirement which needs persistent efforts. The PSS must be integrated into the Government security sector both for intelligence gathering and on-the-spot incident response.”


Besides skill development through flagship schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), a uniform Act governing licensing and other rules adopted across all States will greatly facilitate the ease of operations and may increase compliance with the regulations. There is a need to make amendments to the current licensing terms. It is important to introduce a single licence for an agency operating in multiple states in contrast to obtaining state-wise licences, as is the case currently.


Since the private security services industry in India faces a supply constraint owing to restrictions on security agencies to hire only those individuals as armed guards who possess an arms licence, there should be a review of the existing framework so that an agency can procure the required weapons and then train its employees to use them.


With none of us wanting a private army, there should be adequate safeguards in place to monitor PSAs such as proper screening, registration and individual licensing subject to annual reviews.


In the words of Major General DK Jamwal (Retired), ex-CEO, Security Sector Skill Development Council, “The challenges of community security are increasing by the day...Besides the optimisation of the armed forces and police organisations we have to look at alternative resources. The answer perhaps lies in the optimal utilisation of the existing force of 7 million in the private security sector (PSS)... We must have a civilian or a private security force that is just as powerful, strong and well-funded (like police and military). To start with, the PSS can be the eyes and ears of the police force.”