Museum Security Network

Kolkata, India: Gardeners to guard museum?

Gardeners to guard museum?

Caesar Mandal, TNN, Aug 14, 2010, 06.28am IST

KOLKATA: Are sweepers, gardeners and contract labourers guarding the priceless artifacts in Indian Museum? Shocking but true, say some officials of the country’s oldest museum. What’s more, security gadgets at the heritage institution are either defunct or under-utilised and just about anyone can enter without a security check.

It seems the authorities have learnt little from the theft of a Buddha bust in December 2004. Apparently someone simply lifted the glass case and walked out with the Sarnath antique during visiting hours. The CBI still has a Rs 1 lakh reward for the recovery of this bust.

Officially, Indian Museum has a three-tier security system. The museum’s own security staff are in charge of the inner circle galleries, exhibits and the main building. The outer circle which includes the premises, and entry and exit points are managed by a private security agency. Kolkata Police is in charge of peripheral security.

Some years ago, 73 ex-servicemen were recruited along with nine inspector-ranked officers for the inner security in accordance with central government norms. Their number has dwindled to 42 in 15 years or so. The vacancies were never filled up.

The museum authorities have made up for the deficit with one gardener, eight sweepers and 12 labourers hired from a private agency with expertise in handling waste, an official admitted. They have no training to handle security gadgets and are even less informed about their duty.

The equipment, too, is not quite to the mark. Soon after the Buddha bust thief, 47 walkie talkies were bought to ensure close contact between security staff. But a major scam was detected soon after the purchase. Some officials had allegedly bought the gadgets at inflated prices. The case is now under CBI investigation.

And what about the walkie talkies? Security personnel admit that only six are in use and they have no idea about the rest. Two of the three door-frame metal detectors were found defunct, said an official.

The biggest oversight, perhaps, has been the under utilisation of CCTVs in each gallery. Strangely, the hidden eyes work only during working hours. “A government agency has been assigned to monitor the CCTV footage but its personnel work only during the day. Beyond working hours, the cameras remain shut,” said an employee of the museum. If a theft occurs at night, there will be no video footage of the crime.

That’s not the only after-hours security lapse. The museum’s second gate on Sudder Street is left open 24 hours. ” Group D staff and their families, who have their quarters inside the premises, freely use the Sudder Street entrance. There are no identity cards for them so outsiders can enter with ease,” alleged Saibal Chakraborty, secretary of Joint Platform Action, an employees’ union at Indian Museum. “We have repeatedly informed the chief security officer about the lapses, but he remains indifferent,” Chakraborty complained.

Museum director Dr K K Basa does not deny that there are problems. “We have reviewed the security system and decided to hand it to CISF. They will take charge very soon,” said Basa. He also admitted to the problem of outsiders entering the museum. “We have planned an alternate entrance for the employees to segregate the quarters from the premises. We have finalised the plan for updating internal security and it will be implemented soon,” said Basa.

Read more: Gardeners to guard museum? – Kolkata – City – The Times of India

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