Ask him: your private guard is unwashed while you spray your cars and cats

23rd October 2020

23rd October 2020

7am to 8am or so is typically when private security guards exchange night and day duties. You will see them, mostly walking or cycling, inbound often looking as tired and unwashed as outbound. All over every city now, most of them are from the Gangetic Belt or thereabouts, and while the dialects vary - the common language appears to be Hindi. This is especially seen when the security guard on duty is from one of the lesser known agencies and on that bottom of the barrel duty--guarding vacant houses or on lower end security duty tenures like at dhabas and smaller commercial establishments.

What is life really like for somebody who sees the person he is working for spend more on soap and water for a car or a pet, than provide the same facility, for somebody supposed to guard his wealth, assets and more for 12 hours at a time? Where do they come from, why and how do they get stranded in such mind-numbing dead-end life options, away from their villages for months or even years on end?

A few days ago, the security guard outside a building no longer used for anything and probably up for sale, showed me an already grimy looking plaster on his left hand. What happened, I asked him, and he pointed almost weeping at his ruined bicycle lying in the bushes behind his "security cabin", about how some sort of motor-vehicle, he was not even sure what, knocked him down at night when he was headed home after a day shift.

Does a private security guard have any sort of protection for himself?

There are all sorts of Acts and Rules which try to define what a Private Security Company should adhere and comply with. Please start here -

And then you can look at the Rules drawn up by every State which add to the fine print.

Can you see anything, anywhere, about working conditions of the Private Security Guard? Yes, right at the bottom of the Rules, but have you seen full adherences ever? Please specifically look at No. 6 and No. 9, but please also spot the obvious exclusion - The Factories Act and the Labour Laws Compliance Rules are, surprise, surprise, missing.

 (1) The Payment of Wages Act, 1936 (4 of 1936). 

(2) The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 (14 of 1947). 

(3) The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 (11 of 1948). 

(4) The Employees' Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 (19 of 1952). 

(5) The Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 (21 of 1965). 

(6) The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 (37 of 1970). 

(7) The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 (39 of 1972). 

(8) The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 (25 of 1976). 

(9) The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 (30 of 1979).  

Interesting, no? 

A "Private Security Company can employ 100s of people, can place them to work in factories, but does not have to comply with the Factories Act. Instead, the Migrant Workmen Act is positioned, seamlessly. There is much more than irony involved in this inference - a security guard is a migrant worker.

But before all that, which is a Private Security Guard supposed to do?

From the Act -  2-Definitions (f) “private security” means security provided by a person, other than a public servant, to protect or guard any person or property or both and includes provision of armoured car service;

And from the Rules - 17(3) =  (3) The Agency shall deploy the guards only for the purpose of private security as defined under clause (f) of section 2 of the Act.

Fact remains, the poor Security Guard in most cases is opening and shutting gates, switching pumps for water on and off, carrying suitcases and walking the dog, washing the car and securing parking slots. Or he is at a factory, shop, opening doors and checking the staff as well as customers. 

For which he gets paid as per the Minimum Wages Act, which kind of looks OK, right? Employees and customers, first and last point of contact, a person or persons hired basis lowest bid. Wrong.

SOSD and how it's lifelong servitude

The Security Guard, or pretty much a large majority of migrant workers, are evolved out of what is known as "Sibling or Offspring Secured Debt" (SOSD). 

This is how SOSD works, especially in the Gangetic Belt where feudal basics along with centuries of Mughal and British slavery have made this into natural law. The maximum debts occur at time of marriages and funerals. It is usually the eldest male, who will end up staying back in the village, who takes on these debts. To work off the debts, the younger siblings foray out into the world, with the elder sibling left behind as collateral. Or wife. Or sister. Or parents. Every which way, SOSD ties the migrant worker, circular or hub-and-spoke, into lifelong servitude.

How?

The migrant worker reaches a pre-determined city, chosen for him by the loan shark back in the village, and reports to Mr. Goon who provides a bed, food, protection and safety in numbers basis people from the same area / village / community / caste and more. The similarity to extortion is easy to spot. All this at a cost, which is deducted from future earnings, along with the cost of registering for whatever, training, certification, uniform, bicycle, and finally - a job. Usually through a chain of sub-contractors in between.

The SOSD Migrant Worker is not well and truly locked into the urban unwashed poor cycle. A good share of what he earns goes, typically, to service the debt back in the village, often known as sending money home. Straight to the moneylender. Another big component goes to the distressed lifestyle he leads in the big city - which includes limited access to water. 

And therein lies the rub as well as the real reason why unwashed clothes are such a reality of life in the urban poor lifestyle. There is just enough to have a bath with, and anything extra either costs a lot or means waking up at all odd hours to try to catch a trickle.

Pay-per-use toilets are now seen all over the country. Pay-per-use baths have yet to arrive in India. Employers would rather spend on washing their cars and pets. 

And the village stream has been left far behind. The old Indic traditions of multiple baths every day with fresh clothes are difficult in the cities for the SOSD migrant workers.

Unbathed masses by design. You take away the option to stay clean, you take away a human being's self-respect, try it someday yourself. Been there, done it, and seen what happens,

Veeresh Malik was a seafarer. And a lot more besides. A decade in facial biometrics, which took him into the world of finance, gaming, preventive defence and money laundering before the subliminal mind management technology blew his brains out. His romance with the media endures since 1994, duly responded by Outlook, among others.

A survivor of two brain-strokes, triggered by a ship explosion in the 70s, Veeresh moved beyond fear decades ago. 

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