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Needless Apprehensions about the CISF (Amendment) Act 2008

Om Shankar Jha was Research Fellow at Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile.
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  • March 19, 2009

    The Indian Parliament has recently passed the Central Industrial Security Force (Amendment) Bill 2008, paving the way for the government to provide Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) security to private industrial establishments on cost re-imbursement basis, besides providing CISF security cover for Indian embassies abroad as well as for India’s UN missions.

    The necessity of this amendment was felt after the 26/11 terrorist attacks on Mumbai. Also, the attack on the Indian embassy in Afghanistan necessitated enhanced, dedicated and professional security cover for Indian embassies and for India’s UN missions abroad. A need was felt to exercise the nation’s sovereign function, as well as to prevent further damage to the country’s growing global image and aspirations. Many private buildings, iconic institutions, industries, power plants, petrochemical plants, monuments and major industrial establishments, etc need protection.

    The CISF under its Act of 1968 and subsequent amendments had the mandate of providing security to government industrial establishments as well as for providing security/fire consultancy to private industry. As of now, CISF is deployed in 189 PSUs, 49 government buildings, 57 airports and 33 other units like Delhi Metro, monuments, samadhis etc. CISF consultancy wing is ISO certified and has provided consultancies to 63 public and private sector units – security consultancy to 24 units, fire consultancy to nine units and combined security & fire consultancy to 30 units. The ceiling of force strength has been raised from about 1,12,000 to 1,45,000 for the period upto 2011. The 1968 Act, however, did not allow deployment of CISF to protect private sector, joint venture and cooperative industries and for deputation outside India.

    The security scenario in the country has under-gone a sea-change recently. Due to growing threats of terrorism and extremism, the private sector has been making demands for the security of its establishments through CISF cover on a cost reimbursement-basis. Many vital industries in the private sector and joint venture sector are producing goods and rendering services, which have contributed to the scientific and technological growth of the country and have also been playing a significant role in developing machinery, equipment and gadgetry of strategic importance, and contributing to economic growth and the rising status of India in the world in recent years. At the same time, the country’s economic growth and all-round development has created vulnerabilities from forces and elements inimical to the country in terms of efforts to destabilize our economy through subversive and terrorist activities. The looming threat of terror also shakes the confidence of the private sector and the investor in the economy. Hence, the need to amend the 1968 CISF Act was felt.

    The CISF (Amendment) Bill, 2008 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on December 18, 2008. The Bill was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, which tabled its report in Parliament on February 13, 2009. Subsequently, the bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha on February 19, 2009 and by the Lok Sabha on February 25, 2009. The essence of the amendment is as follows:-

    • Enables the government to deploy CISF for security of joint ventures and private industrial undertakings on full cost reimbursement-basis.
    • A Public sector undertaking now needs to give three months’ notice for the withdrawal of CISF security cover. The earlier provision was of one month notice only.
    • Enables the deployment of CISF outside India in Indian embassies and for India’s UN Missions.

    Since the passing of the amendment bill, the government has been flooded with requests from private industries for the provision of CISF security cover. However, the bill has invited criticism during its inception and after it has been passed by Parliament, with many analysts questioning the need for and urgency of providing security to private industrial establishments through a government security force.

    First, many contend that such demands are initial euphoria and may not last since CISF security cover will be very expensive. This may not be entirely true since profit earning business establishments are ready to pay for security. Also, alternate arrangements like permitting private security agencies to acquire sophisticated arms and equipment may not be advisable. Moreover, no private security agency in India can counter a terrorist attack of the magnitude of 26/11.

    Second, some advocate the raising of a separate security force for this purpose instead of employing the CISF. However, raising a new force is bound to be a time consuming and costly proposition. Instead, further expansion of the CISF is a more feasible option, since experience, leadership, infrastructure, training facilities and working procedures already exist.

    Third, it is felt that private industries may use CISF for watch and ward work as well as for resolving industrial disputes, labour strikes, land settlement, etc. But this can be tackled through well laid out Standing Operating Procedures and effective monitoring of the purposes for which the force is employed. The Union Home Minister has already clarified to Parliament that CISF men will not be deployed for peripheral duties. Only critical security functions will be under the CISF. Private establishments will have to engage other private guards to do the routine watch and ward work. The difference the CISF will make is that it will have fire power and striking power. And it will be employed to react in a situation where there is a terrorist attack or a terrorist threat on that installation. Any other force or employee of the establishment employed for security work will have to work under the command and control of the CISF.

    Fourth, some worry that business houses may manage CISF security cover as a status symbol and they might be used as personal security guards for CEOs. This aspect has to be addressed carefully. Criteria for granting CISF security cover to private establishments and joint ventures has to be scientific, reasonable and transparent based on the threat perception. Also, due care has to be taken to ensure that, only deserving private establishments get CISF security cover.

    Fifth, there are concerns that CISF personnel may not have the capability to prevent cyber and digital crimes in the IT Sector. It is pertinent to mention that the CISF should be entrusted with physical protection and security of physical assets from terrorist threats. Cyber related crimes, which are of a highly technical nature, should not be entrusted to CISF, whose personnel do not have the requisite technical knowledge and training to handle such issues.

    Sixth, there are apprehensions that the CISF might charge private sector units much more than it claims from government units for providing security. The Union Home Minister has clarified in Parliament that there are standard billing procedures existing in CISF and that the same principles that apply to the public sector will also be applied to the private sector and the joint sector. There is no intent to make profit, though every paisa of the cost of providing the security cover will be recovered.

    Meanwhile, the CISF which already works on the model of cost reimbursement, and thereby, not being a burden on the taxpayer, has been flooded with demands for general security services and consultancy, mainly from the IT, hotel, education and the media sectors. The force is currently processing these requests and conducting pre-acceptance surveys of some 24 companies. It will be virtually impossible for the CISF to cater to all the companies and business houses. The government has already drawn out a prioritization for the provision of CISF cover:

    • The first priority covers sectors like power, atomic energy, space, airports, science and technology, information technology.
    • The second priority includes some of the major units in Naxal-affected areas.
    • The third priority of ‘Others’ could be given security cover after threat analysis.

    This is a landmark legislation passed by Parliament which is bound to strengthen the internal security capability of the country. This has added teeth to the government’s desire for ensuring security of any asset whether public or private, within or outside the country on a need basis. It will also ensure safety and security of our embassies and missions abroad. This Act will have a positive bearing and provide safer and secure environment for building India’s global economic/political image.