A different Eid experience

Eid looks vastly different for the people ensuring our safety

The mad rush for going home has begun. In a few days, we shall find the city roads almost barren, big shopping places closed, markets empty, restaurants, factories, and industries in the periphery all coming to a grinding halt.

On the deserted city roads many would enjoy their pleasure rides to their places of choice and indulge in the nostalgia of the yester years of a liveable Dhaka, maybe a few decades back. Even beggars would be gone home, sparing the pavements and sidewalks for the time being. 

If you are keen enough, you can find one species of the city-dwellers in their weird and shabby uniform of all conceivable shades and colours dozing away in front of closed shopping malls, ATM booths, condominiums, or standing guard in residential buildings, offices, factories, and installations.

They apparently show no signs of homesickness, they rather are busy in carrying out their mundane tour of duty, most of them in long 12-hour shifts. The charms and colours of festivity do not seem to have touched them at all, with no glitter in their attire, the look on their pale faces, and no change in their lazy stance. 

Yes, I am talking about the persons performing “security duty” at our residential buildings, shopping malls, office complexes, industries, toll plaza on the highways, sensitive installations, market places, etc. You can find them putting on various kinds of uniform and even ranks of badges of various sorts. 

With urbanization going unabated, as many high rise buildings breaking the skyline of Dhaka, new townships and residential areas, industries, and shopping malls coming up, more and more people are being employed in the role of security personnel. There are a good number of companies who provide you with persons to basically perform duties of watch keeping in the sites they are employed.

Some are imparted basic training -- in drill, donning uniform, dealing with visitors, intruders, some bit of traffic control and managing crowds in hospitals and clinics, etc -- while there are others with no training at all. Some of them are also trained in basic fire safety, who can work to provide basic safety and prevention in case of fire hazard.

The ones properly trained and groomed show marked differences in their appearance and performance. In fact, security services have become quite organized in the last few decades. There are specialized ones, who would provide you security in carrying cash etc. There are outfits who earned a good reputation by providing quality services who are employed even in foreign embassies, and reputed hotels.

You wouldn’t be surprised to come across some security service providers having dog squads with a hoard of dogs trained in sniffing. Some would even charm you with their spectacular show of military drill, acrobatics and other such stunts. Some of them even might be trained in building scaling, rope climbing, etc. 

There are trained security persons who would take care of perimeter security, and entry and exit to your facilities. Some you can trust in keeping records of visitors, handling your visitors and employee entry software, escorting important visitors, monitoring your CCTVs, and the likes. It is very encouraging that this sector has opened up opportunities of employment to unskilled and less educated people in the country. 

Some of the security services are being run and managed by retired armed forces personnel. With their background and awareness for security, they are in an advantageous position to recruit and train up the right type of individuals for the job.

At the rudimentary level, donning a uniform, some basic awareness training, and a number of drills may be good enough for the kind of watch keeping job they are employed in. But to train them up in manners and etiquettes, communication skills, handling people of different temperament needs efficient trainers, judicious planning, and curriculum. It is heartening to note that there are a few establishments who are already doing a good job in this arena. 

They basically act as a good deterrent in dealing with unauthorized entry and encroachment to our premises, protection against petty theft, general watch keeping, internal traffic management, limited crowd control, and even protection against fire hazards in industrial outfits. 

These men stand guard ignoring conditions of rain and sun; they are exposed to dust, smoke and sound, and at times the rude behaviour of people they encounter. Their long hours of duty need a lot of endurance, mental, and physical fitness. 

Now coming to the uncomfortable part: How well are we looking after these indispensable watch keepers who even have to sacrifice observance of their festivals so that we are safe to celebrate? My recent interaction with a group of such watch keepers revealed some very disturbing facts about their lives.

To my utter shock I came to learn there are people who couldn’t avail an opportunity to celebrate Eid with their families in the last ten years. Some of their employers are kind enough to provide them with reasonably good accommodation and provision for food in addition to their salary.

They appear quite happy and do not seem to be harbouring a sense of deprivation. One of them expressed, “even if we are at home with no money, this is no Eid; sending money home to sustain our families is more than a celebration.”

Entrepreneurs and employers may be doing a great favour by ensuring a safe living condition for them in an airy room with lights and fans. A 12-hour shift is rather inhumane, which could be reduced to eight hours. They hardly have time to rest and mind their own chores. If it is unavoidable to leave them during festivals such as Eid, they should at least be paid extra for the holidays they are kept engaged in.

The next time you get out of a shopping mall when you find a security man signalling your car out of the parking lot, maybe you can stop for a while to hand over a small tip and see a smile on his face.

Brig Gen Qazi Abidus Samad, ndc, psc (Retd) is a freelance contributor. Email: [email protected].