The Central Industrial Security Force Act (CISF) has been active, on paper at least, since 1968. The Act provided cover against terrorist attacks mainly to central government installations and public sector undertakings. Of note, the CISF covers public monuments, including ‘samadhis’, which does raise a question of how come the long dead-and-gone are of more value than the living, particularly since despite active lobbying by the private sector the Act had so far not provided cover to any private sector undertakings or joint ventures.
However, post 26/11 the concerns of the private sector fuelled by global anxieties about security issues relating to business with India, reached a crescendo, ultimately resulting in the amendment to the CISF Act in February 2009. This amendment extended CISF cover to establishments in the private sector, where threat perceptions were adjudged to be the highest, by Indian intelligence agencies.
The IT sector is the first to be allowed such cover. Strangely, the hospitality industry, read 5-star hotels, which was the target of 26/11, has not been granted CISF cover as yet, despite repeated terror threats even after 26/11.
The CISF security net comes at a steep price. It is provided on a full cost-reimbursement basis. However, to the multinational corporations which are raking in profits in dollars and pounds, this is not an issue. They are prepared to pay the price, if only to let their foreign clients sleep easy.
The security cover provided includes paramilitary personnel, commandoes trained to strike and fire at terrorists, and to prevent and retaliate in case of terrorist attacks. CISF also provides consultancy services, in fire and security. Data protection however, is not its field. Nor will the security personnel under CISF perform the services performed by your regular security guards. Companies will have to continue to hire their regular security staff for that.
The giants-Infosys, Wipro and Reliance are the winners in the scramble for CISF cover. They can well afford it. What about the smaller fry? Should someone be thinking in terms of training and arming and maintaining private security forces to provide cover to smaller establishments?
The question of course remains as to how effective any form of security cover could be when faced with an attack like the 26/11 one.