Private Corrections Institute, Inc.

Private Security agencies
March 5, 2003
Recently the Delhi commissioner of police issued a circular for regulation and registration of 3,000 odd private security agencies (PSCs) operating in Delhi. The problem is not just Delhi based because in the absence of any specific legislation, about 30,000 such 'rent-a cop' type services are in active business across the country. Top global PSCs including a dozen British security firms are already fishing in the Indian private security market, which has an estimated spending capacity of 300 million pounds with an estimated annual
growth rate of 12 per cent. Group 4, a multinational company employs about 48,000 personnel nation wide. PSCs entered the Indian markets as providers of benign services like 'cash in transit', manning shopping malls, apartments and other sundry watchmen duties. Their proliferation in sensitive areas including the residential complexes of top ranking military personnel and foreign embassies has largely gone unnoticed. Another area of concern is the handling of arms by these agencies. PSCs are not authorised to hold arms and ammunition.  Therefore a large chunk of their work force is drawn from the pool of retired military personnel, who are in possession of arms licences. But the basic question is - can a person holding an arms licence use it for commercial activity? Policing and provision of security for its citizens is one of the primary duties of a state. Yet the state is seeking private cooperation in managing internal security within its territorial limits. Such a public-private cooperation could be termed as 'outsourcing', where the government hands over selective jobs to private agencies while maintaining a tight control over them.  But experience clearly suggests that these PSCs are mushrooming under no guidance from the government and are largely being dictated by market forces. PSCs are challenging the concept of collective security provided by the state by marketing tailor-made security for those who can pay for it. This means that the poor, who have no means to buy security, must remain in a perpetual state of insecurity. Such marketisation of security would only lead to greater inequalities within society leading to creation of 'gated communities', which rely on exclusive facilities for themselves. An example of this are the various Senas, which have sprung up in UP and Bihar to protect the rights of landed communities. The functional and pragmatic reason cited in favour of PSCs is that they are only filling the vacuum created by misgovernace of security by the government, which lacks the resources to provide safety for global business. However, the fact is that private security is a phenomenon, which is registering growth more as a result of 'un-governance' (reluctance on the part of governments to govern) than due to misgovernace. This problem of un-governance is directly related to the nature of the privatisation movement sweeping the global economy. Those who argue that there is no relation between national-security and globalisation would be surprised to note that the global security industry, which is slated to rise from $ 55.6 billion in 1990 to $ 202 billion in 2010, is being marketed as a commercial service. It may not be far fetched to suggest that in future, PSCs may use the good offices of WTO to expand their business interests. Although the present GATS regime (General Agreement on Trade in Services) does not specifically mention private security, such services could later be included as a part of 'business and professional services'. The global prison industry, which is privatising and globalising at a rapid pace, offers a good example of this trend. US-based corporations like Wackenhunt Correction Corporation (WCC), Correction Corporation of America (CCA) and its French partner the Sodexho SA operate prison services in 60 countries. Today, corporatised private security may appear as a necessary evil. But as the social and political tensions exacerbate, the demand for this industry will grow. To cater to the ever-burgeoning security needs the 'watchdogs' may convert themselves into 'dogs of war'. (The writer is a research fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses).  (Indian Express)

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