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Mapping the Political Economy of India's Private Security Industry

Private security is a big and growing business in India. The terrain of this industry reveals significant change as well as continuity. The political economy of security merits greater critical scrutiny from social scientists, policymakers, the media, and civil rights activists.

Private security guards are ubiquitous in India today, policing residential and commercial complexes and an ever-widening range of public spaces such as airports, monuments, parks, urban transport, special economic zones, etc, and now even public institutions. In August 2010, the Government of Karnataka hired 400 personnel from a private security company (PSC) to help address security concerns in 12 district jails,1 including the Bangalore Central Jail.2 Late last year the Ministry of Home Affairs cleared the decks for the deployment of private security guards at public sector undertakings.3 In India’s metropolitan centres, however, PSCs are also guardians of the right to a lifestyle; protecting exclusive gated communities, suburban villas and farmhouses, swank shopping malls, glitzy entertainment complexes, high-end hotels, restaurants and hospitals, etc.

All this is not to suggest that the poorly paid neighbourhood chowkidar in a rather ill-fitting uniform is a thing of the past. Not just yet. As this commentary underlines, the rapidly expanding and changing terrain of the private security industry in India reveals significant change as well as continuity. Overall, the political economy of private security in India merits greater critical scrutiny from social scientists, policymakers, the media, and civil rights activists alike.

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