Perspective | Oped


A Tribune Special
Private security: Coping with new realities

This industry should reinvent itself to function as auxiliary to the official state agencies to face challenges, says M.K. Narayanan
t is imperative to take a holistic and future-sensitive view on how private security agencies can, and should, function as enablers of business and national security. However, is the industry itself prepared to undertake such a responsibility?


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The politics of pretence
Why WikiLeaks releases embarrassed BJP
by J. Sri Raman
hough dramatic, the WikiLeaks revelations about the world of United States diplomacy have proven less remarkable than reactions to them. The recently released cluster of India- related diplomatic cables fall in the same category, but in a different sense.

Khush: Pioneer in rice breeding
by Harihar Swarup
r Gurdev Singh Khush is a well known agricultural scientist. The 300 varieties of rice that he developed averted a major world catastrophe and set the Green Revolution in Asia. Interestingly, these varieties of rice have touched the lips of almost every person in the world. The calamity that loomed over the world was the population explosion without a proportional rise in the food supply of which rice is a predominant staple crop.

On Record
Govt not helping in mining probe: Justice Hegde
by Shubhadeep Choudhury
ustice Santosh Hegde, Karnataka’s Lokayukta and a former Supreme Court Judge, provides a beacon of light to those at the receiving end of maladministration or corruption. His resignation in June in protest against the state government’s reluctance to act against the state’s mining mafia had triggered a furore.



A Tribune Special
Private security: Coping with new realities
This industry should reinvent itself to function as auxiliary to the official state agencies to face challenges, says M.K. Narayanan

It is imperative to take a holistic and future-sensitive view on how private security agencies can, and should, function as enablers of business and national security. However, is the industry itself prepared to undertake such a responsibility?

To do so, it would mean that the private security industry must be imbued with a broader vision and come to terms with many new realities. It would necessitate upgrading the profile of an industry that is often denigrated for not having trained manpower, proper equipment and, above all, proper ethics.

Would I be wrong if I were to say that the private security industry in India continues, as in the past, to be primarily confined to man-guarding, with the vast majority of their guards being poorly trained, and with little understanding of security issues? I am aware that some of the bigger and more established private security companies do carry out a multitude of tasks and have a better record in this respect, but it is the vast numbers of smaller players who give the industry its profile.

M.K. Narayanan
M.K. Narayanan

Consequently, if the private security industry is really anxious to become an enabler, it must first convince the authorities and then their own clientele that private security has graduated to a level where it can hope to become an enabler. It is hardly enough to engage in high-sounding rhetoric. What is needed is to demonstrate that the private security industry and security professionals are equipping themselves to discharge such a role.

I admit that institutions like New Delhi’s International Institute of Security and Safety Management (IISSM) are keen to pursue such goals, but is the rest of the industry willing to make the necessary sacrifices and effect the changes that this would necessitate?

Why is it important for the private security industry to seek a larger role and how would it benefit the nation?

What stems from my association with security problems covering over five decades is that the growing complexity of security, specially internal security, problems makes it essential to look beyond the traditional law and order agencies, almost all of them being official agencies, to ensure optimal use of manpower and resources.

This is vital if we are to provide a more secure environment and better protection to the citizenry. It is necessitated also by the need to create additional capacity to ensure comprehensive security. Private security agencies are, hence, needed to augment the strength of the police, the paramilitary and other similar entities, acting as auxiliaries to them in different areas.

This cannot happen unless the senior echelons of the security agencies suitably prepare themselves, beginning with a better comprehension of today’s security problems and the nature of our vulnerabilities in an age of globalisation. This is not going to be easy. Operating within an unpredictable security environment has been difficult even for official agencies, but for private agencies this is uncharted territory and their problems are likely to be far greater.

If industry professionals are to be vested with additional responsibilities, they should have a thorough grounding regarding the kind of threat posed by cross-border terrorism which is not only constantly evolving, but patterns of behaviour and tactics are constantly changing.

There are more attacks being planned on economic and iconic targets than was previously the case. Linkages of the terrorist outfits with groups within the country, including criminal elements, are expanding. Organised crime syndicates are gaining in strength and spreading their tentacles, greatly increasing the threat from this quarter.

Many new problems also have emerged on the scene which industry professionals must become aware of. As the 21st century advances, the most serious danger possibly will be the cyber threat. As cyber space and cyber warfare expand, so will our security concerns. Economic crimes, too, are taking on new dimension. There are newer threats regarding the so-called ‘Global Commons’. In particular, criminal activities on the high seas, including piracy and clandestine trafficking of contraband material via the sea will demand special attention.

Is the private security industry prepared to take on some of these challenges? Are they ready to function as auxiliaries to the official state agencies in these areas? Undoubtedly, the principal responsibility for security will always rest with the official agencies, but an optimal redistribution of resources is called for and this means that private security agencies can have a prominent place in the scheme of things.

Private security professionals must concentrate on ‘Resource Security’. In this area, they can effectively complement and supplement the efforts of the official law and order agencies. Critical national infrastructure willy-nilly will always require to be protected by the police or the various law and order agencies such as the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) or the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).

Items that are less sensitive, such as museums, stadia, monuments, hotels, banks, art galleries, laboratories, to name only a few, can be handed over to private security agencies, provided the industry has carried out the necessary makeover and introduced a level of professionalism in their activities. In addition, the private security industry could move into some newer areas like guarding of jails, process serving, etc.

The authorities are currently mulling over the possibility of co-opting the citizenry into overall schemes for security preparedness, given the multitudinous nature of the threats that we face. This envisages a kind of partnership between the citizenry, local authorities, community organisations and agencies which have a security outreach.

Already, some advisories have been sent out in generic terms, to try and involve the community in creating an outer security tier, mainly against terrorist threats, mass upheavals and social tensions.

In the past, Civil Defence volunteers provided the bulk of auxiliary support, but in today’s conditions, a properly regulated professional private security industry possessing trained personnel equipped with many skills, would be a logical member of any such partnership programme. This is an area which needs the close attention of private security professionals and the industry as a whole.

To discharge any or all of the above mentioned responsibilities, the industry must be able to convince, and give confidence, to both the public and government authorities that they are capable of functioning in a responsible manner and are fully equipped to discharge their responsibilities. Even if the industry is ready to take up the challenge, there are many gaps that need to be filled.

The knowledge gap

This will be a major challenge. Even senior echelons in the security industry lack a proper comprehension of security problems. They also lack the skill to adjust methods and tactics to operate in today’s dynamic world. Keeping abreast of problems in a fast changing world requires a degree of sophistication, which with singular exception, is seldom found among private security professionals today.

Industry leaders also fail to take note of the law of unintended consequences, and that while it may not always be possible to see certain things coming, they can mitigate its effects if they have adequate knowledge and training – the Black Swan syndrome.

The technology gap

This is another inherent weakness that the private security industry suffers from. In an increasingly wired world, most private security agencies in this country have, at best, a rudimentary knowledge of the sophisticated technologies that are available today to provide many-sided protection. In an unregulated industry, knowledge about technologies is still confined to the Fifties and the Sixties of the last century. Threats to security have gone up sharply because technical knowledge inevitably diffuses.

As technological knowledge increases across the world, they do provide people with tools that are intrinsically neither good nor bad, but are often used against society.

Lack of technological knowledge is like a black hole, and if the security industry is genuinely interested in becoming an enabler, it must not only recognise the importance of technology, but also that technology can be a force multiplier as far as security is concerned. Thus, the security industry must incorporate into their training and other programmes a complete technology package to enhance protection against modern-day adversaries.

The private security industry cannot ignore the seriousness of the cyber space threat and must get suitable personnel who can comprehend the nature of the threat and how to erect defences against this new danger.

It may not be possible, or necessary, to adapt many of the techniques available to and with the government agencies, but the security industry should familiarise itself with aspects such as GPS locators, Voice Modification Software, concealed identities, twitter applications, etc.

The information gap

It is vitally important that private security agencies should desist from indulging in any kind of intelligence activity. Nevertheless, they cannot ignore the need to collect information on the nature of threats to the security of their diverse clients.

Rather than embarking on a fishing expedition regarding all kinds of threats, they must seek to augment their local knowledge about development in the public realm, somewhat on the lines of the ordinary beat constable who gets information in the course of his routine duties. This is essential to ensure just-in-time defence against any surprise attack on an installation or office they are charged to protect.

The recruitment gap

A major problem affecting the private security industry is the inability to attract the right type of talent and the proper type of personnel to join the industry. Consequently, industry personnel tend, as a rule, to be viewed as much lower down in the competence and quality chain. Partly this may be due to the fact that the profile of the industry has not been properly upgraded, but much of it also has to do with the fact that there is not enough insistence on quality.

Wage levels also tend to be lower than in comparable jobs in other industries. The cumulative result is that emphasis on knowledge and the importance of keeping abreast of current trends is often put on the backburner.

The cascading effect of this on the capacity and capability of the industry can well be imagined. To help private security industry evolve into an important constituent of the security value chain, industry leaders must cultivate the science of strategic foresight and perception management. The former is particularly important when handling problems arising from social tensions that might have a political fallout.

Many of the problems that the private security industry faces, and probably will face in a more aggravated form in future also arise from perceptions of either industrial labour or people of the area that they are being shortchanged. Understanding the working environment demands specially devised insights. Perception management tends to be a vital tool in this respect. Special skills are needed if unarmed guards facing assaults from unruly and angry mobs refuse to get provoked. A combination of strategic foresight and perception management can, therefore, prove useful to the industry professionals.

Keeping in view the future prospects and scope of the industry, with the consensus of the various private security agencies involved, it should evolve certain guidelines for itself to be adhered to by all agencies under its fold. There could also be a ‘Ranking System’ introduced where ranks could be allotted on the basis of the fulfillment of certain predetermined criteria and benchmarks. The ranking system would benefit governments, public and private parties and individuals to get an idea about the efficiency levels of the private security agency.

The private security industry is extremely chary of competition. Here again, while majors in the private security industry are least concerned about the fly-by-night operators (who have given the industry a bad name) they use their influence and resources to keep out competition from established security firms, specially foreign security firms. This has the unfortunate effect of making the Indian private security industry comfortable with poor, and at times shoddy, performances. This, in turn, gives the industry a bad name.

It is, therefore, hardly surprising that apart from a handful of private security firms, none of the others have any kind of high rating for professional efficiency. The government is openly disdainful of private security firms, quite often with reason. A large number of tasks that could otherwise be undertaken by private security industry is hence being handled by government agencies such as the CISF, ITBP or even the CRPF. This is a waste of government resources, but will continue as long as the private security industry does not pull itself up by its bootstraps.

The other pernicious trend is that many private security industries are run by persons who either have a government connection or are in a position to influence government thinking in various ways. This kind of cozy-crony relationship has resulted in giving the security industry a bad name, i.e. that it is not performance but influence that is the main criteria.

Linked to this is the way the provisions of the Private Security Agencies (Regulation) Act has been manipulated by the industry bigwigs or other influential segments within the private security industry, to protect their turf and prevent any kind of real competition.

Many of the State Security Boards tend to be handmaidens of the industry bigwigs, all of whom are men of substance and hence influence. If the rest of Indian industry has opened itself up to competition, following the advent of economic reforms in the early ’90s, it is almost a crime to adopt protectionist policies to keep back an industry because of the tactics adopted by a few, who currently control the industry.

I hasten to add that it should not be seen as a sour note. It is actually a wake-up call to an industry whose future is extremely bright, but can only hope to fulfill its potential if it provides free rein to bright young minds to transform it from the beliefs and practices of the early 20th century to a modernised version suitable for the 21st century.n

The writer, a former National Security Adviser, is currently the Governor of West Bengal. This article has been excerpted from the writer’s address at the valedictory session of XXth Annual Internal Seminar organised by the International Institute of Security and Safety Management in New Delhi recently



The politics of pretence
Why WikiLeaks releases embarrassed BJP
by J. Sri Raman

Though dramatic, the WikiLeaks revelations about the world of United States diplomacy have proven less remarkable than reactions to them. The recently released cluster of India- related diplomatic cables fall in the same category, but in a different sense.

The politics of punitive intent clearly marks the US establishment’s response to the disclosures violating the secrecy and sanctity of diplomatic communications. It is politics of pretence that finds illustration in the outrage in India — especially of the main Opposition in a specific instance.

The WikiLeaks releases concerning India only provide unusual confirmation of some of the worst-kept secrets. Some of these are unlikely to provoke storms of protest. An example is the cable from former US Ambassador in Islamabad Anne Patterson, saying that “no amount of money” could change the Pakistan military’s view of India as the main external threat, or stop its sponsorship of the Lashkar-e-Toiba and three Taliban groups in Afghanistan. This brings no startling news to anyone in the sub-continent.

Nor have serious objections been taken to the talk in the cables of torture and human rights violations in Kashmir. Official note of these has been taken in India. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has only commented that the cables concerned referred to such violation during the term of former Chief Minister Mohammad Sayeed of the People’s Democratic Party.

Separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani found “nothing new in these disclosures” while Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq voiced the oft-repeated complaint that Washington had maintained “international silence” on the issue in international fora.

The contents of the cables on the US-India nuclear deal, however, were a different kettle of fish. The Congress and its president Sonia Gandhi have not reacted explicitly to a cable making critical remarks about her so-perceived scanty role in pushing the deal.

A dispatch of November 7, 2007, from the US embassy in New Delhi to the Department of State says she “never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity”. The loss of such opportunities may not be lamented much in a country where public perceptions of proximity to Washington is not what the doctor would prescribe for a leader’s political health.

This is exactly why the cables have embarrassed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The WikiLeaks have made no fresh revelations in this case as well. The party, while in power, had taken the first major step towards a US-India “strategic partnership”, the logic of which led to the nuclear pact. As the deal unfolded, the party faced a political dilemma. It had to cope with the problem of keeping up oppositional appearances, even while endorsing the deal in effect.

The BJP’s reservations over it began to appear merely ritualistic, after former National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra, closely associated with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, came out clearly in support of the deal in February 2008. The rest is history — the victory of the Manmohan Singh government in the parliamentary vote on the deal in July 2008 by a wider than expected margin.     
What has caused the BJP leadership to blush is a set of cables that shows its interactions with the US embassy during this period.

One of the cables to make the party squirm says that, “while it continues to speak with many conflicting voices, (it) appears to have softened its opposition to the agreement, in part, due to the Ambassador’s meetings with BJP leaders”.

What should cause discomfiture to both the BJP and the Congress is the series of references in the cables to the bipartisan politics behind the passage of the deal. A cable, signed by then Ambassador David C. Mulford on the eve of the general election of 2009, expresses confidence that both the BJP and the Congress would support a closer US-India relationship, symbolised by the deal. But if these two parties forged a coalition with regional parties to form the government, “their ability to move forward aggressively (on this front) will be constrained by the disproportionate power of smaller parties, which have narrower agendas that frequently do not extend to foreign policy issues,” the cable told then US Special Representative Richard Holbrooke.

Furious BJP leaders have denied being influenced by the US on the deal, with former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh (whose talks with then Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott way back in 2000 set the stage for the “strategic partnership”) dismissing the claim as “a figment of imagination”. US policy-makers, however, have made no secret of their bid to promote the “strategic partnership” through bipartisan support in India.

Former US Under Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nicholas R. Burns was among the formulators of the strategy. In an essay on “America’s Strategic Opportunity with India” in Foreign Affairs (Nov-Dec 2007), Burns wrote: “That this new US-India partnership is supported by a bipartisan consensus in both countries considerably strengthens the prospects for its success.”

He added: “In India, both the ruling Indian National Congress and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party have worked for over a decade to elevate India’s ties with the United States.” He recalled that, after India’s nuclear-weapon tests of 1998 under a BJP-headed government, Talbott engaged Jaswant Singh “in 14 rounds of talks over two and a half years.” The process continued into post-Vajpayee days in New Delhi.

This was especially evident in the bid for bipartisan support for the deal in India. American participants in the campaign on Indian soil included, besides Mulford, high-profile dignitaries like former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (who met top BJP leaders) and a delegation of the George Bush-blessed US-India Political Action Committee or the Usinpac (whom Manmohan Singh reportedly asked to carry a message of consensus to the BJP).

The BJP is indulging only in politics of pretence, as it feigns indignation at alleged insinuations over its part in the deal by cable-happy diplomats. The wiser party leaders may wonder about what is coming next — considering that the WikiLeaks is said to have much more India-related material up its sleeves.

The writer is a senior journalist based in Chennai



Khush: Pioneer in rice breeding
by Harihar Swarup

Dr Gurdev Singh Khush
Dr Gurdev Singh Khush

Dr Gurdev Singh Khush is a well known agricultural scientist. The 300 varieties of rice that he developed averted a major world catastrophe and set the Green Revolution in Asia. Interestingly, these varieties of rice have touched the lips of almost every person in the world. The calamity that loomed over the world was the population explosion without a proportional rise in the food supply of which rice is a predominant staple crop.

Owing to adoption of modern varieties, developed by Dr Khush, the production of rice doubled in just 25 years — from 257 million tonnes in 1966 to 520 million tonnes in 1990. Significantly, most major rice-producing countries became self-sufficient and thus the threat of massive starvation was averted.

Born in a Sikh family in Ludhiana district, Dr Khush is a plant breeder and geneticist and had worked with the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. Over 60 per cent of the world’s rice fields have been planted with varieties developed under his leadership. In other words, when you set your foot in a rice field anywhere in the world, the variety you see is developed by Khush and his team.

Eldest of four children of his parents, Khush grew up virtually in a wheat farm, helping his father in ploughing, sowing, tending, and harvesting. Khush aspired to contribute to the betterment of society and so he studied hard in school. Graduating at the top of his class in high school was only the beginning of his high academic achievements.

Throughout his career at the Punjab Agricultural University, he was always among the top three students. In 1955, he graduated with a degree in plant breeding.

After graduation, Khush sought further education and opportunities abroad. He borrowed money from relatives to purchase an air ticket to England where he worked in a canning factory. In 18 months, he saved enough money to pay back his relatives and to buy a ticket to the US. His academic excellence led an offer of a student assistantship at the University of California where he earned his Ph.D in Genetics.

At California University, Khush was fortunate to study under the world famous geneticist Dr G. Ledyard Stebbins. After completing his studies in 1960, he stayed on at the university until 1967, doing groundbreaking research with Prof Charles M. Rock on tomatoes and writing an authoritative reference on the subject. During this period, he travelled to India and married Harwant Kaur Grewal. The couple has four children.

In 1967, Khush joined the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and has been in the forefront of improving rice varieties ever since. Prior to the beginning of the Green Revolution, varieties of rice took six to seven months to mature and yield about 1-2 tonnes per hectare. Khush modified the plant by reducing its height, shortening maturing time and increasing response to fertilisers. Under optimal conditions, these plants can yield up to 10 tonnes per hectare.

During his career at IRRI, he visited over 60 rice growing countries and has been a consultant in rice improvement programmes in many of them. He has also trained rice breeders from around the world, served as major professor for M.Sc and Ph.D students and laid the groundwork for rice breeding projects in many places.

For the pioneering work in rice breeding, Khush was honoured with many awards. The first one was the Japan Prize, which is considered equivalent to the Nobel Prize in Agriculture. In 2000, he received the World Prize in Agriculture from Israel.

The money from these awards was to the tune of $700,000. On conversion, it amounts to Rs 3.5 crore. Khush and his wife decided not to use this money for their comfort but made the amount available to the Punjab Agricultural University to help upgrade its research and teaching.

Khush believes that his main achievement lies in being able to help humanity. He says, “it is because of the education I received in PAU that I got an opportunity to work at IRRI”. There he got good facilities and support. He had a large group of scientists working under his leadership.



On Record
Govt not helping in mining probe: Justice Hegde
by Shubhadeep Choudhury

Justice Santosh Hegde
Justice Santosh Hegde

Justice Santosh Hegde, Karnataka’s Lokayukta and a former Supreme Court Judge, provides a beacon of light to those at the receiving end of maladministration or corruption. His resignation in June in protest against the state government’s reluctance to act against the state’s mining mafia had triggered a furore. He later withdrew his resignation following a request by BJP leader L.K. Advani. His father, K.S. Hegde, was the Lok Sabha Speaker (1977-80). In an interview with The Tribune, he shares his experience as the Lokayukta.


Q: Why did you object to judicial probe into land scams set up by the government?

A: A complaint regarding land scams during the Yeddyurappa regime was submitted to me by Y.S.V. Dutta, a Janata Dal (Secular) functionary, on November 18. The government issued a notification on November 20 entrusting the investigation into land scams to a judicial commission by a retired high court judge. I felt the government should have taken my consent before setting up the judicial commission because I was already looking into complaints regarding land scams. While judicial probe is covered under a Central Act, the Act under which the office of the Lokayukta has come into being in Karnataka also received assent from the President of India.

Q: Are you looking into the land scams against Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa?

A: No. More than one petition has been filed in the high court for an order regarding who should look into the scams – the Lokayukta or the judicial commission. I am waiting for the outcome of these petitions. If the court says the Lokayukta should do the probe, then only I shall resume the investigation. However, I am looking into the land scam charges against Katta Subramanium Naidu who resigned as a Minister after it surfaced that he had illegally claimed compensation from land that did not belong to him and was involved in handing over 300 acres of land to a company worth only Rs one lakh.

Q: Is the government helping you in the mining probe?

A: It has got much worse. BJP president Nitin Gadkari has recently told the media that I was behaving like an opposition leader. He was so nice when he visited me at my residence with Chief Minister Yeddyurappa in June to request me to withdraw my resignation.

Q: Can the Lokayukta help check corruption?

A: If he is interested in fighting corruption, then the office can, certainly, be an effective tool. Besides corruption, the Karnataka Lokayukta is also empowered to look into arbitrariness in administration. We get many complaints about non-payment of statutory dues such as anomalies in distribution of old age pension under the social welfare scheme of the government. The eligible candidates are sometimes left out and ineligible ones are given the pension.

We also get complaints about civil works and kutcha works carried out under official supervision and expense. In India, governance is all-pervasive and in day-to-day life also an ordinary citizen has to deal with the government. We are able to sort out 90 per cent of the complaints submitted to us regarding governance. Over 6,000 such complaints come to us every year.

Q: Is the Obalapuram Mining Company owned by Janardhana Reddy and Karunakara Reddy, both Ministers, under scanner?

A: I shall not comment anything specific at this stage about involvement of politicians in illegal mining. It, however, does appear that all those politicians who are affluent have something to do with mining.

Q: When is your mining probe likely to be completed?

A: I shall submit the report before I retire in August 2011.

Q: While you are active, your counterparts in other states are not. Why?

A: The Karnataka Lokayukta Act is very strong. Only a retired Supreme Court judge or a former High Court Chief Justice can hold this office with a five-year tenure. The Upa-Lokayukta can be a retired high court judge. Debarred from holding any office after completion of the term, he can look into complaints against government servants and politicians holding office of profit such as ministers. It all depends on the person holding the office. He has to decide whether he would like to work or simply enjoy the perks that go with the office.



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