Reactions to police commissioner Gulabrao Pol’s latest directive towards private security agencies have been conflicting. On the one hand the police establishment believes making retainer licences mandatory for guards bearing firearms will rein in misuse of guns, while some security firms and commercial establishments hiring their services see this as harassment and believe this will create more problems than provide solutions.
So far, many of these guards got by with licences they had obtained for personal usage of the weapons, but that won’t suffice any more. A few security firms have said that the decision will lead to them losing out on business, as the task of acquiring a retainer licence is cumbersome. Several establishments like colleges, banks, factories etc, which rely on the services of these agencies, have said this makes their situation vulnerable, at least in the short term.
According to this circular, apart from the private gun licence, a guard’s employer also needs to have a retainer licence so the former can officially be appointed and allotted a gun. The orders also mentions that the authorisation of firms will be suspended if any of their guards are found using arms with personal licences for commercial purposes.
Some security agencies have, in fact, welcomed this move. Commenting on the issue, Captain Patang Mohite of Goodwill Security Services, said, “This is a laudable step by the authorities, as this will help curb illegal activities being carries out in the absence of retainer licenses. Many people have personal permits, which they sometimes transfer to others. Also, various agencies are using such private arms licences for commercial purposes, as retainer licences are difficult to get.”
Adding to this, Sandeep Deshmukh, owner of Homeland Security Services, said, “Industrial areas and banks need arm guards more than other establishments. But this decision will affect these organisations, as getting retainer licences will take a long time. But on the other hand, this is a good decision, as there are more armed guards in Maharashtra than in other states. The situation is difficult for us as it is tricky to verify the authenticity of a licence submitted by a person who comes to us for a job.”
“I had applied for a retainer licence around a year and a halfago and I’m still waiting. In this situation it is difficult to run a security services agency,” said Anil Sanas of Sanas Safe Guard. Speaking on another aspect of the issue, a security guard, who is also an ex-serviceman, said, “We have to guard very important and sensitive places, and the absence of guns will not help the cause. We protect the establishments from anti-social elements and gun plays a major part in determining our success and failure. We don’t need to use weapons, but their presence is important.
But there are more facets to this narrative. Weapon expert and director of Gunmark Armoury and Lethal Force Institute AY Kulkarni said, “Many people who are cheating the government, as they seek licences for personal use and then employ the weapons commercially. According to the survey conducted by Pune police and I in 2002, around 64 per cent of the armed guards in Maharashtra are from outside the state. The study also revealed that around 22 per cent arm licences were not authentic.” He, however, did not spare the police establishment. “Cops are harassing some people using these orders. There are many ex-servicemen who had licences, which are very helpful for their rehabilitation. As they are trained and retired from the defence services, they should be allowed to earn their bread and butter by doing security service. Butcops have seized arms from many of them.”
Commenting on the issue, additional commissioner of police (admin) Abdur Rehman said, “Yes there are orders that there should be no use of permits given for personal security for commercial purposes. If there any organisation needs armed guards, then it has to obtain a retainer licence.”
>> Private licence: Is issued for self/property defence. The permit may be revoked if the owner uses the licence for commercial purposes, for instance on someone else’s property.
>> Retainer licence:
Case A — The licence is meant for the person whose name is mentioned as ‘retainer’ while asking for a weapon’s licence. A person can get the permit and mention a family member’s or someone else’s name as retainer. In absence of the licence holder, the retainer can adopt the licence.
Case B — If the gun is owned by a bank manager, he can mention three people (security guards) as retainers in the form who can actually use the gun for the property’s defence. If he/she wants to appoint more than three persons, he/she can apply for one more licence.