By Rohitha Naraharisetty, Abhishek Kelkar, and Kaushik GV
In the aftermath of the recent incident where a female student was assaulted by a guard, T5E investigates what could have possibly gone wrong and the steps being taken to avoid such incidents in the future.
In what seems to be one of the few reported security incidents on campus, a female student was assaulted by a security guard employed from an outside agency. The incident occurred on the 10th of January, at around 3:30 am near the Ozone Segregation Unit. The student was headed towards the Velachery gate to meet and pick up a friend who had just arrived on campus. Whilst on her way, she was suddenly assailed by an on-duty security guard, Mustafa Ahmed, who was in the vicinity. He was an employee of an outsourced security agency.
Fortunately, things did not take a turn for the worse, as the student’s friend called out to her just in time for her to escape. Her delay in arriving at the gate prompted him to start walking into campus, where he found her phone lying on the road. Seeing this, he went in search of her by calling out her name and upon hearing him, the security guard fled from the scene. However, the two found his cap lying on the ground wherewith the security office could identify the assailant. The girl reported this incident at the security duty room immediately and was very clear that she wanted a police complaint lodged. Her statement was taken and put in the FIR verbatim. The security guard is currently in custody as the police are investigating the case.
In light of this shocking incident, we at T5E decided to investigate the existing security protocol, future measures to be taken to ensure safety. We spoke to Dean (Students), Dean (Administration), Chief Security Officer (CSO) and a few employees of the private security agencies hired by the institute about the same.
Security Agencies and the Contract Violations:
The security on campus is divided into four distinctive groups: one stationed at the gates, one for the academic and residential zones, one for the hostel zone, and one for overall security. Of these four groups, first three are outsourced to external agencies and fourth hired directly by IIT Madras. The guards hired by the institute are the IIT Police and are permanent employees of the institute, all of whom have been serving for over 20 years. However, they constitute only about 20% of the total guards strength on campus. Permanent employees can be seen wearing a brown uniform; and guards outsourced from the three respective agencies can be spotted in purple, blue and cream coloured uniforms. The particular guard in question was from the blue uniform cadre, and worked for an external security agency.
Guards employed by the outsourced agencies are checked for their age to ensure a certain level of maturity and experience in employees. As per the rules specified in the contract between IIT Madras and the private security companies. the minimum age to work as a security guard in IIT is twenty five, and the maximum is forty. In light of this particular incident however, it was revealed that the culprit was twenty years old and had been working for two years, which means he was employed as an eighteen year-old, a clear violation of the contract. CSO, however, assured us that following this incident, Security Section will strictly ensure that the age bar is upheld in the future. When we probed further, a few employees from the outsourced agencies, under the condition of anonymity, revealed that a good number of employees under the age of 25 and above the age of 40 were hired and have been working on duty.
Another cause for concern is the way the accused guard in this particular incident was caught through his cap. The threat of identification and charges would have been higher, if the guard had a visible name badge or id card, as stipulated by the Tamil Nadu law. According to Section 16.4 of the Tamil Nadu Private Security Agencies Rule, 2008, “Every private security guard while on active security duty will wear and display photo identity card issued under section 17 of the Act, on the outer most garment above waist level on his person in a conspicuous manner.” The absence of such a photo identity card is thus a clear violation of the act. Given that the assailant in question was identified only by his cap and otherwise could’ve escaped scot-free, it is now imperative for the institute to enforce the use of nameplates or badges for all staff on campus.
Tamil Nadu Private Security Agencies Rule has more guidelines for private security personnel — each guard must come attested with a Conduct and Antecedents (C&A) certificate which serves to verify his background. This certificate involves checking educational qualifications (class ten and twelve completion), checking of police records in the city of employment and in the guard’s hometown respectively, attestation of behaviour by a higher authority, and more. The Security Section ensures that the certificates of each of these guards are received in due course, though we were informed that the process could take anywhere between 6-8 months to send in the certificates and the private companies are required to give an undertaking in this period. However, as the C&A certificates are held by the security agency’s head office, it remains obscure whether or not all the guards on campus have been C&A attested, and whether these certifications have been received and recorded by the security office in IIT.
Safety measures on campus:
Apart from the several regulations that the external agencies are required to follow, the CSO told us about the following measures that the Security Section takes with respect to the personnel.
There is a roll call carried out at 1:40pm everyday for all the guards on duty, where guards are also checked for usage of alcohol or any other such substances. If found under the influence, immediate action is taken*. There is another meeting conducted around 6pm everyday, wherein all the guards are gathered and meted out their instructions for the day. The meeting is conducted by the chief duty officer of the company, in the presence of the institute’s security officers. Additionally, the Dean of Students also interacts with the guards every six months.
Another rule enforced by the institute is that of pairwise patrolling. At night, guards are strictly not allowed to wander off alone, and must at all times patrol with another guard on duty. Guards are therefore segregated into groups of two or more, and sent on patrolling duty everyday. However, in the incident in question, this particular guard seems to have excused himself from the group for few moments; during which time he caught the girl unaware.
Another pertinent measure is the rotation of guards’ locations in the hostel zone. The CSO informed us that rotation of security guards, particularly in the girls’ hostel zone, is done every six months in order to prevent them from getting too familiarised to the environment and to the movement of its inhabitants.
There exists an on-call night shuttle that plies exclusively for women students on campus who aren’t in the hostel for academic purposes and who wish to return to their hostels safely if they have any reason to believe that they are unsafe. The brown-uniformed (IIT Police) guards are the ones who are present on the shuttle. When the shuttle started operation a few years back, the shuttle’s route included Zaitoon/Quark, Velachery gate as well as Sarayu Extension. However, this was later restricted to the academic and the hostel zone, leaving the gates out. According to the email sent by Prof. Sivakumar, Dean of Students, the shuttle is to be used to commute between academic zone and hostels/quarters within the campus, for those girl students and scholars who would be going to the departments for academic work in the nights. The shuttle service is available on call between 10pm and 2am.
Extending the route and the operational timings of the shuttle could be one of the measures that could be considered to enhance the security on campus.
Students can download the security app called VithU available on the Play Store and feed the Security Section’s number (9444393526) in their emergency contacts section of the mobile application so that they can let the control room know about their location by pressing the panic button if any difficult situation arises. Further, there exists a portal on the MiTr website (the confession box) where people can confide anonymously and get help if they should so need it.
In terms of future course of action as suggested by the Dean of Students, there could be open forums on safety and security. The question of having more female security guards, as well as female officers in the security control room, would be looked into seriously. The CSO told us that hiring of more permanent guards by the institute was underway and we should be seeing an increase from the current 20% by June or July. The number of ex-servicemen, who are another external group that the institute outsources security to, might also increase. A temporary measure that the CSO has already taken is the installment of guards specifically near the Ocean Engineering and Engineering Design departments, to prevent girls from venturing alone beyond that point unless accompanied by someone else. However, it must be worth noting that no guards were in sight while we went to the venue to verify this on different days**.
The CSO reiterated that the safety and security of the residents of the institute is a matter of prime importance and additional measures shall be taken to further improve the security on campus.The Dean of Students told us that he shall request a review of the procedures of such checks to find out if gaps exist and correct them appropriately. While further measures are being taken to improve the security, individuals too can ascertain their safety by taking extra precautions.
Emergency Contact Details:
Chief Security Officer: +91 (44) 2257 8260
Duty Room, Security Section: +91 (44) 2257 9999, 9444393526
*If a guard is found under the influence at any given point of time, or is misbehaving regardless, the matter can be reported to the duty room immediately by calling 9999.
**23rd, 24th and 25th of January, 2016