They are visible on the railway stations in khaki uniform, but they are not Railway police force. They vouch for your security, but they are not your body guards. They check your baggage, but they are not security guards. They are visible on the railway stations in khaki uniform, but they are not Railway police force (RPF). They are Home Guards.
We all have come across them at some point or the other but have failed to recognize them as Home guards or have simply confused them for a RPF or a GRP. This is bound to happen as there is a very thin line of difference in their appearance and attire. The one thing that differentiates them from each other is a badge on their shoulder where it is written RPF, GRP or Home guards.
Home guards are paramilitary forces that are tasked as an auxiliary to Indian police force. Established in India by the former Home Minister Late Morarji Bhai Desai in 1946, it was reorganized in 1962. Home guards were deployed in railways after 7/11 train blast in Mumbai to protect and secure railways.
Their duties includes checking the baggage, maintaining law and order situation in the railway station, helping and guiding the commuters, providing first aid, taking charge as motormen in case there is a strike, mobilizing the crowd, resolving fights, etc. However all this functions are to be performed under strict guidance and in presence of GRP or RPF. The basic criterion to be a Home guard is SSC coupled with a medical examination. However, it includes people from all walks of life- be it a Teacher, Doctor, employees of public or private sector. Basically it includes all those people who are willing to give their spare time to the community.
They are trained for 15-20 days in camps which are set up in Goregaon for Mumbai. Ironically, their training includes parade and weapon training, although they are not officially given the weapon for use during their duty hours.
Home guards are paid on the basis of daily allowance for the service they have rendered for the day. They are given ‘Bhatta’ or ‘Maandhan’ (as they say it in hindi) of Rs. 200 per day for a 12 hours shift.
Home guards have been a very crucial posting since stations have repeatedly been a venue of terrorist’s attacks. Given the list of all the duties and functions it is expected to deliver, if we look at it closely we find that there are many loopholes to it.
The city may boast of having thousands of home guard personnel who can come to the rescue of residents in times of emergencies but a startling fact is that there is a lack of training amongst the home guards. Not a single one of them has been trained to run suburban trains in case there is a strike and disruption of public transport. Also as mentioned above, they are not equipped with any kind of weapon except for a ‘lathi’.
They also face the problem of delayed payments. They are kept on daily allowances however there have been instances where the money has reached them after 4-5 months. “The new online salary system has made it even worse”, says one of the Home guard in Andheri. They are not paid for the extra hours of work they put in, in case of emergency. They also have to get their own uniform stitched at their own expenses.
Despite of all this, the reason for them choosing to be a home guard is more of a choice. To be a Home guard, they need the least qualification; i.e. SSC, they get Khaki uniform which in itself is a matter of pride. After 3 years of service in Home guards organization they get an opportunity to enter into police force where they get a 5% reservation in comparison to others appearing for the same.
The home guards are honoured for their outstanding works on 6th of December, which is celebrated as Home guard’s day. On this day, they are felicitated by giving cash prizes, certificates and medals for their remarkable performances by the President of India. During the last 30 years, 133 home guards were honoured.
They are indeed a crucial part of our society but how unaware we all are about them! Even as an invisible force they are in some way creating the feeling of selflessness and commitment among the citizens towards the nation and society to encourage them to help people in crisis.
Thinking about the 26/11 Mumbai carnage, which shook the very foundation of security forces in Mumbai, we are remembered of Martyrs like Viay salaskar- the encounter specialist, Hemant karkare, Ashok kamte- commissioners from ATS and Tukaram Omble- the constable who held Ajmal Qasab, the lone surviving terrorist. In the above mentioned list there was also a name called Mukesh B. Jhadhav who was a Home guard at the CST station. This name probably remained unnoticed because people barely know who home guards are… Sad, isn’t it?