In November this year, India will observe the ninth anniversary of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks that saw 10 gunmen enter the country by boat and launch a series of attacks across South Mumbai that killed over 160 people. It has been nearly a decade, but the carnage still haunts every Indian. 26/11 is a grim reminder of the security threat that the country has been facing and the lack of proper anti-terror training that had cost us dearly at the time.
The increasing number of terror groups and their sophisticated operations call for effective measures outside the specialised domain of security agencies. The corporate world - realising that self-security is the best security as the first line of defence - is taking a lead in this.
When e-commerce giant Flipkart was approached, the company's Senior Director (Security and Investigation) Gaurav Datta readily agreed to enrol a few employees for the certified anti-terrorism specialists (CATS) training programme.
According to Major Rahul Sooden, former Associate Director at Flipkart and currently the security head at one of the largest conglomerates, "It is a proactive approach. The training undertaken is for being more cautious. It adds value to the way we look at and analyse things/issues related to security."
Other big corporate houses to join the programme include the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Reliance Industries (RIL), VSF Global, Thomas Cook India, Mahanagar Gas and BP.
Captain Mukesh Saini, who has been head of security at Godrej Industries over the past four years, went one step ahead and himself paid the fee to undergo the training as he wanted to comprehend what could be happening in the world of terror. "You can't really stop someone who is determined to carry out an attack, but one can certainly take steps to make things difficult for him. We must take measures to safeguard our assets. It's more a mental exercise than physical," he explains.
"After 9/11 and 26/11 attacks, it has become necessary for every corporate and every organisation to know the basics of combating terror," says Sanjay Kaushik, Managing Director at Netrika, an NCR-based consulting and investigations firm that has been conducting the CATS programme in India. "The 9/11 attack was successful due to lack of imagination and failure on the part of security personnel. The industry has now realised that security people need to think ahead of terrorists who are evolving all the time and using newer techniques to strike," he adds.
Corporate houses not only fall prey to direct attacks but also face cyberterrorism where hackers break into their systems and access sensitive information. There are also threats of terror modules or sleeper cells infiltrating the corporate world. Hence, it is essential to train security managers, private security personnel and executive protection agencies.
"The definition of security has changed after 9/11 and 26/11. Training has become critical and it is sharpening our skills. That's why we are imparting knowledge to our people," says Datta of Flipkart.
"Of course, corporate houses cannot combat terrorists, but we have to be well prepared for contingencies. Risk management has to be in place. In case of a terror strike, the security people are usually the first responders. Therefore, their jobs become more crucial as they need to save assets and human lives. In such cases, they should have the ability to think out of the box to minimise the impact."
Kaushik of Netrika agrees. "Terror organisations have been upgrading themselves. Lone attacks or drone attacks are some of the examples. One needs to be aware as no one knows what can hit you."
Over the past 30-36 months, more than 100 people from India Inc. have undergone CATS training that covers a number of key areas - how to respond to a critical situation, how to delay terrorists from reaching assets and save human life, how to gain time, how to call for help and provide first aid, and most important, how to evacuate people.
The three-day certification programme is accredited to the Chartered International Institute of Security and Crisis Management (CIISCM), Singapore, and enables professionals to learn the latest trends, technologies and best practices that will help deliver robust security solutions and provide insights into international terrorism and counterterrorism measures.
Gerard Lee, a former officer of the Singapore armed forces and an explosive specialist, says, "We teach them how to react when terror strikes, how to investigate a suspicious person or any activity that can lead to a major terror mishap, how to check credentials of a suspect and how to tackle cyberterrorism."
"Profiling is a big aspect. One can't check everyone; so, we teach them to identify people and suspicious activity. It's similar to the CISF's job at airports," says Kaushik.
"The programme has helped strengthen our process and we have tightened certain areas of security in our company," points out Saini of Godrej Industries.
Similarly, Sooden, when he was working with Flipkart, shifted the men's changing room from inside the main building to a place near the security guard's cabin as he realised that the changing room could be a potential threat to the main office and all the 600 people working there.
What's Hindering CATS?
"Cost," says everyone who has undergone the training. The programme costs anywhere between `80,000 and `100,000 per person, compelling businesses to hold back the training for most of their employees. One may have to shell out even more to attend a refresher course to stay updated. Saini, who paid the fee from his own pocket, says, "It is a huge expense. Not every company can afford it, and we are going slow."
"We are not making money through the CATS programme," says Kaushik of Netrika. "For us it is a brand-building exercise. We cannot bring down the fee as we have to recover the cost of the trainers who are experts of global repute and charge at least $3,000 a day."
Undaunted by the budget constraint, Datta of Flipkart sent eight of the 63 security staff for CATS training. These certified specialists are now training others in the company so that all are aware of the new concepts emerging in the world of terror.
"It's an irony that everyone wants safety and security, but most companies don't have the budget for training or upgrading the skills of security professionals. Even U.S. companies don't have specific allocations for security training. There are some companies who have their training and learning cells or departments; they do have a training budget, but again, nothing specific for security," says Kaushik.