Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Death of a Security Guard

Written by Anil Singh

Live in Delhi for a fortnight and you will surely stumble a guy from Uttarakhand working in some cybercafé, mall or as a security guard at some indiscreet shop or institution. Their demeanor is so humble (which many attribute to the lack of confidence) that you will spot them even in a crowded shop. It’s other thing that their accent and their tendency to ask “from where do you hail from” is a sure give away most of the times.

The point I want to bring home with the above snippet is that -- Not only there is a significant number of people from Uttarakhand employed at many small jobs in India’s capital; the fact that these people are never able to see Delhi as their home, resulting in a humble demeanor; they are also exploited by their employers.

Not to say, the issues arising out of temporary job status or job in unorganized sector are always there.

Bringing to light once again the employer exploitation in Delhi, where an employee is pushed to the edge; a 24 year old youth, hailing from Almora district of Uttarakhand committed suicide yesterday. Gopal Singh, who was a security guard at Jeevan Bharti Building near Parliament Street was found hanging from a ceiling fan at 9am.

Singh, who had last reported on night duty on Sunday, worked with Firewall Security Company. He left a long suicide note, blaming long working hours and pittance as salary for taking the extreme step, police said. In his suicide note, he has stated that he was forced to work at least 12 hours a day, even after which the company would deduct money from his salary on one pretext or other.

The Delhi Police have registered a case of abetment to suicide against the employer.

Know the Laws which protect you against exploitation at work place:

It's heart wrenching, for any thinking individual, to see a 24 year old young man take his life in such a manner. The grief felt becomes much more, if one can connect with the person ethnically and regionally.

It will be wrong to assume that employers in any city will pay heed to the above incident and start paying and treating their employees well. As ultimately it’s the capitalist, or maximizing profits at the cost employees, which guides any employer in private sector.

But still, a basic knowledge of ‘the laws that work in any employment’ can help any employee; to raise his/her voice in case of extreme exploitation.

According to the available data, the sector in which Singh was employed or the Private Security Guards sector, there are more than 3.5 lakh security guards employed across the Capital. A basic understanding of the laws for the employee sector can lend at least some empowerment to those employed.

According to the Private Security Agencies Regulation Act (PSARA) of 2005, guards are supposed to be paid at least Rs 6,300 per month, for an eight-hour duty, have 26 working days (53 days of leave) and are entitled to medical welfare schemes.

A note to Governments:

It will be wrong to say that the governments, whether state or central, must provide employment to sizable number of citizens. The employment any government can provide will always be insignificantly small; and will be driven by the same demand and supply principles, which govern the private employers. That apart, the number of jobs in Government sector will continue to decrease with each passing day; as most modern governments, in an environment of free trade, are increasingly leaving the commerce to private players and limiting themselves to sectors that it can’t leave on Private sector (defense, currency).

But still whatever steps a Government takes in the field of employment generation, should necessarily instill in citizens the feeling of wholesomeness and present an example to the private sector(which will employ most of the citizens).

But this is not happening.

As Singh hailed from Uttarakhand, a simple scrutiny of the working of Uttarakhand Government will be necessary here (as Rawat’s death raises the issue of migration as well).

Have a look at the employment related issues approved by Uttarakhand Government in Mr. Khanduri’s second innings. “Asha Behens” in the state will be awarded Rs 5000 per year as encouragement. The “Bhojan Matayein” will get a monthly salary of Rs 1500 instead of Rs 1000.

Both the above hikes, contribute insignificantly to the ones employed. A Rs. 5000 per year hike, which comes out as Rs417 per month, amounts to NOTHING for Ahsa Behens, who are taking a paltry salary at present.

A Bhojan mata, who cooks mid-day meals at schools, under Government’s Mid-day meal scheme; will not jump with joy either; as many of these women have taken this job in desperate times (widow, has to feed her kids).

If Governments assume that their employees can live a dignified life in Rs1500-2000 a month pay; then there’s surely something wrong with Governments too.

On contrary, the BC Khanduri Government has increased the annual student scholarship for the Engineering and Medical education of the dependents of Ex-Service men from Rs 12000 to Rs 24000. The annual scholarship awarded to the children of ex-service men for PhD has also been increased from Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000.

Just compare the two scenarios – pensioner getting assistance even for his kids’ higher education AND “needy women in Uttarakhand hills and plains” cooking food for 50 students in schools for a month or providing mid-wife services to remote areas getting Rs 1500-2000 a month as salary to live on.

Have a look at the above scenario from this example: In the Kumaun university Bed admissions this year. 47 out of 48 self financed seats meant for SC/ST category students cannot be filled. Finding just one seat filled out of 48, the university conducted counseling and offered the same 47 seats to general and OBC candidates. In simple, many among SC/ST students in Uttarakhand couldn’t afford the seats. Assuming that many of those may be bright, can’t they be provided the similar assistance provided to wards of ex-servicemen?

But since the Uttarakhand Government is hell bent to appease defense service population in the state, it’s turned a deaf year to other citizens.

Another example here is the way the Uttarakhand Government conducted the Samuh Ga examinations; where inadequacy of examination centers compelled candidates to travel hundreds of kilometers and spend unnecessary money on travel.


Making a comment on issues like employment, dignity of life and equitable & empathetic distribution of resources is a difficult task. As the issues have many variables. But still knowing one’s rights and raising one’s voice against Government and Private sector employer is important. Also important, is to remind the government of the shortcomings it had while spending the public money.

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