State set to issue arms licences directly to banks, hsg societies

Banks, housing societies and malls, which were unsecured for the past four months after private security agencies withdrew their armed guards deployed at various private commercial establishments because of police action on those holding illegal licences, will soon be able to get arms licences on their own.

There are at least 2,000 armed and five lakh regular security guards working across Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane, a senior state government official said. However, there are no definite figures on how many of them have the requisite permissions.

“From now on, we will be issuing licences directly to organisations that require armed guards, such as banks and malls, since we have stopped issuing arms licences in the state for the past four months,” home minister RR Patil said on Thursday.

He was replying to an issue raised by legislator Ramesh Shendge in the legislative council over the growing number of illegal arms licences possessed by security guards provided by private agencies.

“I agree there is a huge demand for private armed guards, so we are coming up with a new policy that will govern private agencies and arms licences for security in the next session. It will have definite guidelines to ensure all parties are safe,” he said.

Shendge pointed out how most agencies were hiring guards who have licences from other states such as UP and Nagaland, issued to them for self-defence, though they are now using it for commercial purposes. Patil concurred and ordered a review of all licences issued to private security agencies, and said those which are being used illegally will be cancelled.

At present, the state-run Maharashtra Private Security Guard Board governs the appointment of guards at factories, malls, banks and other commercial establishments, for which the private agencies have to approach them; security for housing societies is not under its ambit.

Shiv Sena legislator Deepak Sawant alleged that there is no control of the government over security agencies who function in housing societies, and there are no agencies to monitor them.

The problem, a senior official explained, which the government hopes to solve with the new proposed policy, are the multiple rules and no fixed monitoring mechanism.

For guards to function in the state, they need to get an approval from the state labour department under the Regulation of Employment And Welfare Act, 1981. However, the agencies get a go-ahead under the Private Security Agencies (Regulation) Act, 2005, which is a central legislation, and the Maharashtra Private Security Agency Rules, 2007, from the state home department, which issues licences for guards.