The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Scramble for private security
- Businessmen, diplomats seek protection after Anant kidnap

New Delhi, Nov. 19: The phone on Rashmi Seth’s desk hasn’t stopped ringing for the past five days.

Allaying clients’ security fears is her job, but the “almost hysterical” panic following the kidnap of three-year-old Anant Gupta was something the manager at Scope Securities hadn’t expected. “Apart from existing clients, new people have been calling in,” she said.

Seth isn’t complaining, nor are her counterparts at other private security firms. The more anxious the parents, the better the business for them.

Eagle Eyes in South Extension has got five new clients since Monday — the day Anant, son of Adobe India CEO Naresh Gupta, was abducted near his Noida home.

“Four of these are top Delhi businessmen and the fifth is a high commissioner’s family,” said an official at the firm.

The agencies say parents who panic transfer their anxiety to colleagues and neighbours. This leads entire corporate houses and residents’ welfare associations to take a second look at their security.

Setting up electronic alarms, making sure the intercom isn’t rigged, or simply posting more security guards — the security firms have busy days ahead.

The anxiety wave isn’t confined to Delhi or Noida. Agencies like Sentinel Securities in Bangalore and AP Securitas in Hyderabad say clients, who include top IT firms and their executives, have also begun worrying owing to the publicity Anant’s kidnapping got.

“The kidnapping has been received with almost the same concern as a terrorist attack,” said Sentinel general manager B.B. Ponnappa over the phone. “Many of our clients actually know Naresh Gupta; after all, they work in the same field.”

He added that the Garden City’s transformation to a constantly expanding IT park had led to increased abductions and blackmail targeting the families of well-off professionals.

Most corporate houses provide guards to their top executives from the same firm that mans their offices, but the demand for back-up security from individuals is increasing, the firms say.

But they add that families have an equally big role to play in preventing kidnappings.

Situations like Anant’s – he was left alone with a maid outside the house – must be avoided, Seth said. “Ideally, parents and family members should constantly be with the child.”

If that’s not possible, at least one of the guards at the house must be sent with the child.

“Since we check out all our guards before hiring them, chances of them being involved in a kidnapping plot is very small,” Ponnappa said.

An intercom, if affordable, is a good option as the identity of a visitor can be confirmed right at the gate.

The firms have a final advice: Don’t be penny-pinching.

“After some groundwork on a residential locality and the location of the house, we would often suggest, say, four guards but the families would hire only two. Then, when an incident like this happens, they would come back to us for extra guards.”

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