House guards deserve a better deal

File photo used for representation purpose (Collected) File photo used for representation purpose (Collected)

Apartment buildings are increasing in Dhaka and also expanding in other cities. These apartment houses provide comfortable living conditions for the dwellers-- some owners and others tenants. An essential element to ensure the comfort is round-the-clock security arrangement. Generally supplied by a number of private security agencies, guards remain on duty for at least 16 hours or two shifts in the same place or two separate areas. Again, in many residential buildings and houses, these sentinels are recruited directly by the owners. 

Private security service thus becomes a growing source of employment generation. Though the exact number is not available, it is roughly estimated that the number of people employed in this sector is around 1.50 million. They include guards in residential, commercial and office buildings. 

Save a few residential or apartment buildings, guards in most cases are overworked. Though their primary duty is to keep continuous vigilance on the buildings, they are also responsible for opening and closing main gates and watching the entry and exit of various visitors.  Besides, in many apartment houses they have to go for frequent shopping as ordered by the residents, especially owners of the houses.  In some cases, the guards, however, receive tiny amount as tips or service charge though many don't pay them for doing the extra work. Again, in some cases, they have to work as cleaners without pay. 

The monthly wages of these guards are generally insufficient in terms of their workload and duty time. The most problematic thing is the inadequate leave they used to avail.  As most of the people working as private guards come from outside Dhaka, they get little chance to meet and stay with their family members due to short duration of leave. This creates a mental agony on them. Those who are able to maintain family in Dhaka or nearby, however, get some solace. 

Many apartments do not deploy sufficient number of guards to save cost.  Attitude of these apartment owners or building committees is to get maximum service with minimum guards. The result is deprivation of the necessary rights of these people who are serving there.  That's why the guards have to work daily and there is no weekly day-off or holiday for them. Who makes the seven-day work week obligatory for the private guards and also some others like domestic help? 

The living conditions of these people are also miserable. Living away from their families almost all the yearlong and sharing rent with fellow guards in small and congested rooms, they have little scope for healthy recreation.  Though in some apartment buildings there are small rooms allocated for the guards to stay, the facilities are inadequate. So, they have to suffer a lot during the hot summer and chilly winter. 

Nevertheless, there are some apartment buildings in Dhaka where the scope of work of the private guards is well-defined and maintained professionally.  Others need to follow this so that the private guards also feel their dignity of work.  

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