Secure-Naissance: The Security Conundrums
What is “security” for? What parameters determine a “secure” environment? Who is responsible for our security? What does being a part of a “secure” nation entail?
The Oxford English Dictionary presents “security” as a noun, the scope of it extends to “job security,” and “national security”; the word comes from Old French securite indicating “free from care”.
And NIT Rourkela cares. It has an elaborate security system and constantly adding to it. Security guards are doing their round and are never hostile to demanding situations. CCTV cameras have been procured and are being installed. The roads are wide; speed breakers are planned and are to be arranged soon. The Administration is genuinely sensitive to issues. In spite of all the arrangements, there has been a series of incidents that has forced the campus community to rethink its policies. What is more heart-breaking is that multiple horror stories have added to the misery.
It was 23 September 2017. Campus residents had planned their Dusshera vacation. Campus students, after their mid-semester examinations, would wish each other a good bye at Rourkela Railway Station. Not just the campus, in fact the whole country was in a festive mood. Mother Durga would pierce her favourite demon son to end evil from the world. She would then go to waters to come back next year as rain and grain to restore peace and save the universe. The whole nation would look forward to the celebration year after year for centuries. A faculty member of the Department of Mining Engineering must have planned his vacation in his unique manner. Given the fact that he has chosen a teaching-research profession, he cannot plan a complete vacation. He has to balance his research and vacation. It was that dreary evening, 6.30 PM to be precise, when the professor was in his residence, studying. His sister-in-law would give the cry of a pierced seagull and he would come out of his house to find his wife fainted. He would recall. His wife was taking a walk outside their residence. Someone, a biker, with a white helmet, had just hit her head from behind. Hardly could she take a step after that incident and fell on the ground. That is the place for her, home, sweet home!
Who was this biker with a white helmet? Was he a member of the campus community? Was he an outsider? Is he a repeated offender? Whosoever he was, both the faculty member and campus security failed to catch or identify him. The professor who experienced this unfortunate incident states:
I observed that on that particular day there was no security personnel stationed in that area, i.e., from the campus school to the post office. In addition, I have observed that multiple college students, outsiders, are roaming about freely in the campus.
The faculty concerned has rendered twenty-one years of valuable service to the campus community, educated a generation of students, and he recollects that this is the first time he has encountered such a serious issue.
A faculty member of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering has another horror story to narrate. A few months ago, he had a visitor who was taking an evening walk along with his wife. It was the road which starts from the Mangala Mandir and leads upto the Dispensary. His wife was conversing over the phone and the visitor was a few steps ahead of her. A biker approached them from behind with an intention to molest them. Hardly could they react in shock. Off left the offender and their brisk walk to chase him remained unsuccessful. The professor tells team Monday Morning that many female research scholars of his Department now leave their labs early because they had encountered similar incidents.
A professor of the Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering witnessed security lapses in front of the Naga Pond. It was the summer break after the hectic academic year of 2016-17. He had visited the fish outlet near the campus Naga Pond, where he saw four outsiders charging the fish-vendor. They pulled him out by his collar and manhandled him. The faculty summoned the security personnel stationed there and asked him to handle the situation. Hearing this, one of the miscreants charged him and was about to hit him as well. He even placed a knife on the fish seller’s throat and the incident generated a lot of chaos.
A faculty member of the Department of Chemistry narrates another incident of July 2017. It was 9:30 PM when a campus resident of the BF area was taking a walk along the dispensary lane. The road was deserted. A biker approached her from behind with an evil intention and she had to run to the nearest security post for survival. Upon reporting, the security personnel stationed there said that he could not do anything unless she provides him with the bike number!
There seems to be no end to these unfortunate incidents. A fear psychosis has developed among campus residents owing to security lapses. One needs to imagine the gravity of the situation where a female Professor who has served the institute for nineteen years, saw her daughter being molested by a biker just in front of her house. It was 6 PM on the day of Vijaya Dashmi. She was standing near the gate of her residence. Her daughter was taking a stroll along the road when a person—probably a middle-aged man wearing a black pant and white shirt and furnished with a black helmet—approached her from behind on a motorbike. He had turned the bike’s headlights off and the visibility was poor. With a lot of confidence came the biker, slowly and consciously, as if a vulture were approaching its prey. Her daughter was dazed and even she could not react for a few moments. A few minutes later she reported the matter to the security post. Nothing came out of the complaint.
She tells team Monday Morning:
I have become very scared now. I am concerned for our students as well; it is a matter which will affect everyone. I have even restricted my daughter from going out. I have been here for nineteen years now and this has given me a fear psychosis.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky said that the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons. It is well said that only when women can move freely at a place, in the middle of the night—without fear and without having worries—can we say that we are at a civilized space. To survey the other perspectives and preparedness of the security system, Team Monday Morning initiated a conversation with the Officer on Special Duty for security,Suman Datta. Here are a few excerpts from the interview.
Monday Morning: The main gate is one of the well-built gates of NITR; it is a primary entrance for all visitors. Our college lacks a proper security system at the gates; the security guards deployed at the gate rely on experience when it comes to identifying visitors and this is not the ideal way to for campus security. Can the system be improved?
Suman Datta(SD): Pertaining to occurrence of strange incidents in the campus recently, we have restricted the entry of visitors and have made the system of visitor passes functional. They are supposed to take the pass and get it signed by the person whom they intend to visit. While returning, visitors return the pass at the main gate. I will advise the students of NITR to refrain from inviting outsiders into the campus; this is the main reason of all the incidents. We have started issuing passes for all the faculty members and the staff and PhD students residing in SSB Hall of Residence. For the day scholars, we have decided to issue different colored passes which will restrict their movement only in the academic area. The people who are not a part of this institution are being checked meticulously and their purpose of visit is ascertained by the person they are meeting. Upon Director’s advice, a high level committee has been set up which includes me, the PIC and eight other professors to strengthen and streamline the security affair.
MM: If such measures have already been taken then why do such problems still persist?
SD: The reason of such incidents still occurring is that the students and the staff invite guests into the campus and then they force the security guards to let them in. I request all the staff and students to cooperate in making the institute free of miscreants. The boundary at Kantajhar is also broken and we have informed the Director about this issue for which he has sanctioned a specified amount of money and the repair work will start very soon.
MM: What other measures have been taken?
SD: CCTV coverage is also an amenity we are installing to track the vagabonds within a week. We are having a provision of installing 250 cameras in the entire campus. We have also deployed 10 more security guards near the residences of the faculty members following the incidents that occurred there. The security budget has also been increased from INR 3 crores to INR 6 crores. We are purchasing walkie-talkies on the recommendation of the committee. The purchase will be made within a week or two.
MM: Can these incidents be expected to stop now?
SD: Yes, the incidents can be expected to stop now. The Director has instructed us to become very strict and keep a vigilant watch on the people visiting the campus. We have even sought the help of the local police and they will visit the campus on errands.
That takes us to the first question that we asked: “What is ‘Security’ for?” And at what cost? The recent unfortunate incidents should not, and must not, create panic, and there must be a call for high preparedness. The Administration is preparing for a better surveillance system. The campus residents should contribute their part to strengthen it. Additionally, there has to be an “Emergency” security team available to campus residents all the time. One Entry and Exit point for visitors/outsiders is be devised so that we can monitor people’s movement. The security service team has to be more sensitive to people’s issues along with being more prepared and vigilant given the nature of seriousness of their job. Campus patrolling may be initiated during evening hours. With this, Team Monday Morning invites your constructive comments so that it will help NIT Rourkela create a better environment.