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Plagued by insecurity

The festival season is one of of those rare times when every member of the family finds free time to be together for a while. The husband gets respite from work, the children take a break from schoolwork and Sima leaves behind the housework as everyone goes on vacation. Unfortunately the whole fun of being on vacation is marred as Sima constantly worries about the empty house left behind under lock and key. Tales are rife of burglars breaking in and clearing out the house like a summer sale.

But that is the usual story. This time around Sima is much more relaxed because of the new security guards employed from a private firm. These guards have provided her with a relative peace of mind.

Sima is not the only one benefiting from the service of security guards. Private security firms now supply manpower to all kinds of homes and institutions be it schools, offices or shopping centres. As long as there is a need for someone to protect their valuables, these firms have their employees at hand to serve.

The beginning

These private firms have been in operation in the country since the early 80's with Rora and Securex being the most notable names in the business. They take it upon themselves to select, hire, train, provide uniforms and assign people to these jobs. Both the aforementioned companies are run by retired army personnel, namely Major (retd) Akhteruzzaman and Captain (retd.) A T M Taher Kuddus. One of the most notable among these firms is Group 4, a multinational organisation with operations in several other countries. Although initially the security firms grew up under the helm of military personnel many of them are run by civilians now.

Public faith

These firms have been growing rapidly in the last two decades. Currently there are about 50 different ones employing thousands of people. Security is primarily under the jurisdiction of the police. Unfortunately, the public has little faith in the police leading to the popularity of the security services. These firms have the numbers and the specific types of personnel required for particular jobs. It could be anything from guarding a home or office to transporting valuables like money and electronic goods from place to place. These firms not only provide a valuable service to the clients but also offer employment to thousands of poor people languishing for want of a job especially in the villages.

Employment criteria

Criteria for employment in these places includes police verification of CV or a character certificate from village elders. Physical requirements include being 5-6 feet in height and 20-40 years of age. Training includes not only physical fitness training but also pointers on how to go about their duties maintaining civility. A prospective client can simply contact the security firms when in need of guards. The firm takes care of all the nitty-gritty details of food, lodging, uniform, wages and bonuses. It makes life a lot more convenient.

There are two sides to every story though and good must be followed by bad. In this case a few months ago there was a string of robberies in many shopping centres perpetrated by the security guards themselves. Worse still, the owner of the firm itself was the ringleader who opened up the firm and hired young people from his hometown in Barisal to train them as robbers.

Whom to trust

Trust then becomes a major issue. For this we need proper and strict regulations by which each firm should abide. Guidelines and a strict regulatory committee can help to not only maintain the integrity of this service but also make accountable anyone who breaches trust. While the established security firms pay a starting salary of Tk-2500-3000, many firms do not want to pay more than Tk-2500 per month. Sadly, that takes away the job satisfaction as many of them do the same work as others but get paid much less. It is a small wonder that many are lured into illegal activities to earn more to make a living.

Beating unemployment

Firoz is a young Group 4 employee who is currently working as a security guard at a leading national newspaper. It's a job that has helped him overcome his hurdles of leading an unemployed life. He could have taken up a job in the garments sector or done odd jobs in his village home and earned not more than Tk-1600 per month. In that respect the job as a security guard pays much better and it also has regularity. Shifts begin and end on time and more importantly the employers are treating him decently. Also there are the advantages of bonuses on pay, food and lodging and scope for promotion.

Firoz has not faced any untoward incident in all his time working as a security guard. He informed that many women are also employed in this profession especially in banks and other non-governmental organisations.

Nizam, Shahin, Omol, Enamul and Jewel work as a team of guards at an apartment complex in Wari. They informed that the work could be quite demanding at times. Such apartment complexes consist of many families and hence they have to keep a strict watch over all the related people entering and leaving the premises. That includes all the maids, workers, peons, meter checkers etc. According to them working in an office is more preferable as the people residing in apartments can often be quite rude and ill tempered. Of course, there are some with a temperament sweet enough to make them forget that they are working as security guards.

Security firms have sprung up offering their much-needed services to the denizens of the country who are plagued by insecurity. While in some cases it offers peace of mind in others it could become the very reason for distress. While there is good and bad in everything, it cannot be denied that the services these firms provide are definitely invaluable.

By Sultana Yasmin
Translated by Ehsanur Raza Ronny
Photo: Amirul Rajiv



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