There has been a buzz about institute security at IIT Kharagpur in wake of the terrorist attack at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. We were naturally curious about the steps taken to beef up security. We were assured by A.S.O Mahto that security has been beefed up and is on red alert, the most noticeable consequence of the same being the frequent checking of identity cards and the apparent ubiquitiousness of security personnel. It has come to our knowledge that there were in fact many changes incorporated even before the tragic event in Bangalore.
A few months ago, private security was hired at various levels of the security hierarchy. According to our sources, this decision was taken by the Government of India and is being reflected across all the IITs. The sanctity of the institute building and the Director’s residence continue to remain in the hands of the Government while other areas such as Vikramshila and the halls of residence have been contracted to private security companies – SIS, Trishakti, Oxford.
On investigating, we were informed that earlier the security personnel in the halls of residence were officially no more than mess workers, and they have now been reinstated to doing what they do best (as I’m sure everybody will vouch for). We were naturally curious about the implications of private security, and spoke to Assistant Security Officer (A.S.O) N.K. Mahto about the advantages and disadvantages of the same. The most obvious advantage is of a monetary nature – private security is cheaper since the Government does not have to worry about medical benefits, insurance, compensation, etc of the staff. Also, it would seem obvious that they are rather more qualified than mess workers (although we must never doubt their abilities).
A disadvantage however is that they are new to the institute and do not have the guiding hand of experience in meting out justice (and we know how the mess workers mete out justice four times a day). Some might also question the commitment of the new kids on the block but this is something we shall let time be the judge of. The private security is under the aegis of the experienced Government A.S.Os who have had formal training and are ex-military personnel. The security in the halls has been beefed up to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and this is supplemented by the setting-up of a 24 hour helpline at the institute gate. If in doubt, dial 1001 (that’s 03222-281001 if you are mobile). A new fire prevention system is in the works, and a high-profile meeting is taking place as we speak regarding the intricacies of the same. As of now, there are no automatic fire control mechanisms in the institute and manual intervention is required to handle a situation (as was evident in the server room of Takshashila). This is one of the many issues regarding fire hazards that will be discussed at the meeting.
There seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel as far as the thoroughfare through Shaheed Tarakeshwar Marg (a.k.a. the very long main road) is concerned. The small number of security personnel is insufficient to check each and every vehicle that passes through the campus. This problem is further magnified because the campus is not completely bounded on all sides. There is no proper system of identification of campus vehicles from the non-campus ones (eg. Using stickers) and until this is achieved, progress seems to have hit a roadblock. There are also many non-campusites who enter the campus to dine at our restaurants and canteens, and this is a potential security hazard.
On a happier note, work on the institute boundary wall is going great guns and a significant 25% has been completed (from Puri gate to Prem bazaar). It is expected to be completed by March 2006 and there is no doubt that this will be a significant step towards a safer, less congested campus. The new security personnel hired by the institute are also more qualified than before, two of them even have M.A. degrees in economics! Credit should be given to those who are in-charge, as on the whole things seem to be headed in the right direction. Kudos!