The Assamese security guards in Mumbai

[ Author: Pranab Jyoti Bhuyan ]

It is perhaps beyond doubt that a majority of the Assamese residents of Mumbai is either from oil or music background, who have been earning name and fame in their respective fields through their dedication and hard work. However, a large number of Assamese youths are also working as security guards in various industries and other institutes of the city and if you don’t know, these youths are the worst affected because the rumor spread by some antisocial groups just one and half month ago.

The new wave:

As far as the views of certain security agencies of Mumbai are concerned, there are more than five thousand youths from Assam, working as security guards not only in Mumbai but in other parts of Maharashtra as well.  “We have been recruiting youths from Lakshimpur, Darang, Nalbari, Nagaon, Marigaon and Bongaigaon district for last twelve years and hundreds of youths are still working in the industries of Nashik, Pen, Uran and Dombivli,” says Kanak Deka, chairperson of Abhinandan Guard Force, a city based security agency.

Why do these youths come to Mumbai all the way from Assam just for earning Rs 5000-7000 a month? Do they have any plan to stay in Mumbai permanently like many other Assamese residents of the island city? Do they have the desire or ability to support their families in Assam with the money they earn in Mumbai? These are some of the questions that came to our mind after a huge number of northeastern youths had fled the city fearing racial violence in July and August.

It was however not difficult to understand that economic backwardness and lack of opportunity in our homeland is the main reason behind the migration of this youth. “I could not complete my graduation because of financial crisis. Since we don’t have sufficient land for farming I was searching for job somewhere in and around Guwahati,” says Binod Hazarika, a youth from Marigaon, who is working as a security guard in Uran, “Even my family wanted me to come out of my native place so that I could provide a helping hand to them. Finally, one of my village friends, who had been in Mumbai for many years told me about this opportunity and I came to the city with him.”

Why Assamese instead of north Indian or Nepalese?

Youths from Nepal and north Indian states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have been traditionally working as security guards in Mumbai. Perhaps it will not be an exaggeration that the Nepalese community is considered to be community of security guard by the so called educated youths of the city. Are the youths from Assam helping change this attitude?

Sushil Shinde, a supervisor with Varsha Security Force, explains, “Assamese youths seem to be hardworking and reliable. Unlike the north Indians they don’t have the culture of going to their native places every six months and they work in the same company unless and until they are sacked or they go home. Therefore while recruiting security guards the Assamese youths always get the first priority.”

Satisfied or dissatisfied?       

Security guards are expected to work ten to twelve hours a day in rotational shifts.  They have to be alert all the times as they are held responsible even for a minor theft in the company. But what do they get in return?

“There are very few companies in Mumbai that provide good accommodation to the security guards. Dilapidated buildings along with broken roofs and water leakage have made our lives pathetic,” Munindra Bora, another youth from Nalbari says, “We are not even allowed to go out according to our wishes. The company provides us buses for to going to market areas and we have to return completing all our works within the given time. When some media persons came to our company during the exodus, we were not allowed to speak to them.”

He adds, “We have noticed that the boys and girls of Mumbai, who have the same educational qualification like us, are doing some decent jobs in the shopping malls, software companies or in the call centers. Unfortunately, we are not fit for those jobs as we can’t speak proper Hindi or English. We never got the opportunity to learn computer in our school which has become an integral part of modern life.”

“Although some of my friends left for Assam after receiving some threatening messages, I was not intimidated by it. There are still ten Assamese youths in our company and we have never faced any problem from the local residents” he reveals.

Is this a life changing movement? 

After the nationwide exodus, it was assumed by various commentators that these “uneducated or semi-educated youths” who had fled to their native places, would be a burden for the state as it is already having the problem of educated unproductive youths. A close observation of the issue, however, tells a different story altogether.

“It’s true that some of these youths are really hardworking and they have been able to bring a smile on the faces of their family members with the money they are earning in Mumbai. We have seen some youths working for 16 to 18 hours a day for earning more money,” Deka says, “But a majority of them have neither that intension nor the ambition to do something different staying Mumbai.”

“Most of them come to the city to ‘enjoy their lives’ or to ‘see the world’ and stay here unless and until they get bored or their families want them to be back. Despite coming from an economically backward place like Assam, they don’t understand the value of savings and can hardly support their families,” he laments.

According to Deka, those who are sending money regularly are either married or have some genuine problems in their families. “The security guards have nothing to do apart from looking after the whole industry and hence even after working for five years, they can virtually learn nothing. Since most of them don’t save anything, they have neither skill nor money at the time returning.”

A sigh of relief:

After a prolonged trauma, normalcy seems to come back and around twenty five percent of the youths have now returned to Mumbai. Assam Bhavan (Mumbai) officials as well as the members of Assam Association, Mumbai, have left no stone unturned for rehabilitating these youths.

Devashish Sharma, deputy resident commissioner of Assam Bhavan (Mumbai) says, “Many youths who left the city, have contacted us from their hometowns and assured to come back after Durga Puja. We have also discussed with their employers and they have assured that those, who will come back from their native places after the festivals, will get their jobs just after they reach the city. We suggest all the youths from Assam to take each and every step of their life after much thinking for ensuring a better future.”

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