The state of private security services industry in Bangladesh

| Updated: August 05, 2022 17:55:26

The state of private security services industry in Bangladesh

The International Private Security Officers' Day is being observed in the world every year on July 24. The day is relevant to the progress of the private security services in the country. The private security services were introduced in Bangladesh during 1988-1990 by a few companies like Securex, Atondro O Nischit, Shields, etc on a limited. Group Captain Taher Quddus (Retd) was the founder of Securex and considered as the pioneer of private security services in Bangladesh. Major Talebul Mowla (Retd), Maj Ahsanullah (Retd), Lt Col Quader (Retd), Maj Ashfaque Ahmed (Retd), Maj Mokaddes (Retd), Maj Zulfiqar Choudhury (Retd), Lt Col Abdul Latif Khan (Retd), Maj Syed Mizanur Rahman (Retd), Major Muhammad Akhtaruzzaman (Retd) and Ex-MP & Ex-DIG of Police Hashmatullah are few other prominent names in this connection. They took hectic initiatives to develop this new sector in the country.

The business took time to grow and gain momentum. However by 1994-95, more companies began to operate mostly in Dhaka. Security business took a big leap in Bangladesh and elsewhere in the world after the devastating attack on the World Trade Centre in New York in September, 2001. The threats, particularly from the fundamentalists, militants and extremists triggered the gravest concern and fear.

That was the time when Bangladesh saw a large number of private security companies come into being to operate on a bigger scale. The old concept of 'Darwan' (traditional guard) changed overnight. Uniformed security men were organised under the company banner by mostly high ranking former officers from the Armed Forces and the police as mentioned above. They took over the business to run it professionally as an industry.

But then happened the incident of July 1, 2016, the Fateful Day' when 18 foreigners were brutally murdered at Gulshan, the diplomatic zone of Dhaka. The incident is known as the infamous 'Holey Artisan' attack. It dealt a death blow to our standing in the world. We immediately lost our image of a moderate nation.

The government was upset but handled the challenge very boldly. A complete overhaul of the security apparatus in the country was undertaken. A full-fledged Counter Terrorism Unit was established with all the paraphernalia and gadgets in place. Extensive and vigorous operations were conducted to eliminate terrorism from the country. The efforts paid off and soon Bangladesh regained its place as a genuine fighter against terrorism in the world.

It may be noted here that in 2006, the government enacted the Private Security Services Act-2006 to regulate activities of the private security companies. The act came as a blessing to the industry. The private security industry became well-known and got recognition through the law as an essential service in the country working hand to hand to complement the efforts of the regular law enforcing agencies in the country.

As of today more than 800 security companies are working throughout the country. These companies have created job opportunities for more than seven hundred thousand personnel. Clients of these companies include embassies, high commissions, international organisations, NGOs, different industries including garment factories and pharmaceuticals, educational institutions, offices and residential apartment buildings. One has to find out what the private security companies are not doing. Banks have to transfer billions by their cash-carrying vehicles every day. These vehicles and ATM booths are guarded by the private security companies round the clock.

Over the years, the private security companies have widened and diversified their activities in providing investigation services, executive close protection services, due diligence, emergency evacuations, critical remote area operations, event security, conflict resolution, logistical support, electronics security, maritime security, dog squad support (K9) and others.  We are also doing death claim investigations and medical hospital admission certification for a number of insurance companies.

So, adequate support from the government is needed for the security companies to grow stronger. We hardly have resources to impart good training to our personnel. Some seven hundred thousand (seven lakh) people employed in the sector are doing a great job of supplementing the efforts of the regular law enforcing agencies. Unfortunately there is hardly any good realisation or recognition of the sector's contributions.

Despite a remarkable contribution, security services are still not recognised that much socially. The main reason is less or no attraction to the service, as it is generally a low-paid occupation in Bangladesh. A village girl would not settle or marry a security guard as the man is poor and has no 'status' in society like other uniformed personnel. There are big companies, conglomerates, big CSR performers in the country who hesitate to pay a guard even Tk 5,000 - 6,000 for an eight-hour monthly duty. This means US$ 60 plus for a guard in a whole month. With this low payment, how can one expect the least good service from such a company? Pathetically the security company associations are also not active nor good bargain masters like other trade bodies.

During the Covid-19, these poor security personnel were seen very dedicated like the other 'frontline fighters' -- but there has been no "salute-clap" or incentive for them. They are till "unsung heroes." Unlike the physicians, law enforcers and other innumerable professionals, the security guards have remained neglected. The companies could not even provide adequate personal protective equipments (PPEs), masks, gloves, etc. to the guards as these are unaffordable. During the lockdown periods without any public transportation, lives of these guards became extremely difficult.

Nevertheless, private security services have come to stay. It's a big business in the advanced world. The revenue of a company named "Black Water's" ran into billions. The figure was not even a million dollars a few years back. The company had to go into hideout for a while, but re-emerged with a new name to only earn more. Let's hope things will improve in Bangladesh too sometimes in the future.

Brigadier General Sharif Aziz, psc (Retd) is Managing Director, Elite Force

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