Jyotirmoy Dey’s murder brings to focus the rise in crime and the role of guards supposed to ensure safety, writes Gajanan Khergamker
Senior scribe, Jyotirmoy Dey’s murder in broad daylight at Powai brings to fore, once again, issues of security that housing societies across Mumbai sadly tend to overlook. Whether it’s the 26/11 terror blitzkrieg on the city that left hundreds dead or the murderous attack on the journalist, one thing stands. It couldn’t happen without suspect elements keeping a watch on a potential victim’s whereabouts and movements who ought to have been nabbed earlier itself thereby averting the incidents. That, however, isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Watchman Chhotelal works for 12 hours non-stop at a CHS at Colaba’s Third Pasta Lane by day and for a further 12 hours non-stop all night long at another society a couple of lanes away, and for days at end too. Struggling to keep his eyes open, Chhotelal goes through the motions risking health and sanity alike.
After all, nobody can work 24x7 for 365 days in a year. With him asleep or out of his senses most of the time, there’s really no way he performs his duty of keeping any society secure by day or night. The society’s officials manage to keep a security personnel ‘on a chair’ to placate its members and the watchman gets a salary for sitting asleep in his place and everyone’s happy: that is only till the law catches up with everyone or, worse still, that catastrophe lurking around the corner, finally happens.
By law, besides being forced to do just an eight-hour shift, a guard is entitled to a weekly off too. You can’t make a watchman work for 12-hour shifts for days on end without giving him a break. It has been decided that if a Security Guard is found sleeping while on duty or not found at his work place at the time of Night Checking by the Inspectors of the Security Guard Board for Brihan Mumbai and Thane District, the concerned Security Guard will be liable to fine for such misconduct, equivalent of four (4) days’ wages.
But then, with motivated authorities more than keen to turn a blind eye to the sleepy activities of watchmen, the law is given the convenient go-by placing both life and property of residents at risk.
This anomaly gathers further momentum with the absence of authorities to regularise the guard-society arrangements.
There is also a pressing need to keep identity records of watchmen/guards working at societies through the intervention of the local police who should be involved at all times.
Cooperative housing societies risk life and property directly by employing shady fly-by-night security agencies to provide them services at low cost and untaxed/unbilled arrangements. Worse still, they don’t bother checking its credentials.
While the instances of watchmen and security personnel directly involved in acts of brutality, murder and robbery targeting the very members they are supposed to protect, society officials continue to flagrantly violate the law governing security personnel which is well in place too.
While, cooperative housing societies, on their part, are not covered by The Maharashtra Private Security Guards (Regulation of Employment and Welfare) Act, 1981 that was passed with retrospective effect from 29th June, 1981 as they don’t qualify as either ‘factories’ or ‘establishments’ under the law and hence don’t have to complete any formalities.
That however, doesn’t stop them from scrutinising the credentials of the security agency making tall claims of having offered services to factories / establishments / shops / commercial chains.
The agency has to be registered – by law - with the Security Guards Board of Brihan Mumbai and Thane District.
Under the act, both the Principal Employer and the Employer Agency have to get registered with the Board.
The security guards of the employers should open their individual Saving Bank Accounts in Union Bank of India which is near to the place of their posting.
After opening individual Saving Bank Accounts, they should submit the list of their Account Numbers alongwith their Name and Registration Numbers to the Board.
The cheques of the payment are distributed from 5th to 12th and thereafter on Tuesday and Friday upto 25th of every month on receipt of Wages and Levy cheques by the Board.
Even for disbursement of cheques, the guards need to present their Identity Cards.
Sounds like a tall order doesn’t it, at least for the present lot of watchmen we’re forced to deal with, right?
But then, that’s the law, well in place for you. Cooperative housing societies don’t have to deal with shabby watchmen, leaving their sites at the drop of a hat, scratching away at unmentionables in full public view and more.
All they need to do is establish their credentials by visiting any of their ‘factory’ or ‘establishment’ sites and double-check their claims; insist on copies of documents that they have provided the police while applying for a license; draw up a detailed legal agreement between the cooperative housing society and the agency enlisting the list of pertinent office orders among the string laid down by the statute with list of corresponding penalties and ensure it delivers.