Kamal Uddin, a security guard, works at a residential building. A so-called security company pays him only Tk6,000 to work an almost 24-hour shift per day. Section 201 of the Bangladesh Labour Law stipulates that the workweek should not exceed 48 hours, but can be up to 60 hours in exceptional circumstances
Abdul Halim, 62, a security guard, came to Dhaka in 1996.
At first he took a job as a worker in a small plastics factory in the Lalbag area, where he was satisfied with a reasonable salary and a 10-hour work shift every day.
In 2010 he lost the job because of a long illness. His good days were over.
He joined a security guard company named Elite Force in the capital the same year. The new job secured his life but it took away all the little pleasures that life could have offered him because he has to work an 18-hour day.
At present his world is inhumanly limited to a Dutch Bangla ATM Booth in the Rayerbag area.
Abdul Halim has no weekend and cannot leave the booth even for a while. He gets only Tk11,000 per month.
"I am working here because I could not get another job. My family will suffer if I leave the job. But it is also very difficult for me to continue with it," he said.
Six lakh security guards from 600 agencies face the same problems. Only 70 of these agencies are members of the Bangladesh Professional Security Service Providers Association (BPSSPA).
Sources at BPSSPA say that the sector is providing Tk300 crore annually to the national exchequer.
But the life of security guards working in different places including ATM booths, corporate offices, residential buildings is still unchanged.
Kamal Uddin, a security guard, works at a residential building. A so-called security company pays him only Tk6,000 to work an almost 24-hour shift per day.
"I have to work almost 24-hours. I can sleep only three to four hours a day," he said.
Section 201 of the Bangladesh Labour Law stipulates that the work week should not exceed 48 hours, but can be up to 60 hours in exceptional circumstances.
The government has also fixed Tk17,610 as minimum monthly pay for a security guard. But no company follows the rule.
"We know this is inhumane, but what can we do? Clients offer a very low amount for security guards," said Brigadier General Sharif Aziz, psc (Retd), Managing Director of Elite Force.
Dutch Bangla Bank pays Tk5,500 for a guard per month. City Bank pays Tk 7,500 as a monthly salary for a guard. Other clients do the same.
The organisations even put pressure on security guard companies to accept the payment that has been decided by their board.
Lieutenant Colonel (retd) Khalid Azam, acting president of BPSSPA and also a director of Integrated Security Services Limited, said the government is not supervising this issue.
Client organisations even impose fines on security guard and deduct a big portion of their salary for unacceptable reasons.
A security guard at City Bank's Motijheel Branch ATM Booth was fined Tk4000 for sleeping for a while during duty hours. The bank recently fined 36 guards for similar reasons.
Sources say that all client organisations do the same with the guards.
"They think it is logical to expect the utmost service from security guards, but at the same time, they should think how they can expect standard service on such a poor salary," said Brigadier General Sharif Aziz, psc (retd).
To join an agency as a guard, a person has to go to the corporate offices of these companies and participate in a training programme for 7 to 12 days. The training costs him Tk3000-5000. No salary is given during the training. He also needs a clearance from Special Branch.
After such a lengthy process the prize a security guard gets is pathetic.
Sultana Kamal, a human rights activist and also a former Executive Director of Ain o Salish Kendra, has urged the government to do something about raising the salaries of security guards.
"The guards provide security to people and their valuables. The times demand an increase of their salaries and shorter working hours. Such a practice cannot continue in a civilized society," she said.
Nur Khan Liton, a human rights activist, said the government must increase monitoring to make sure that security guards get a fair salary.
"It is impossible for a person to work a 16-hour shift. The person will fall ill and will be unfit for any kind of work," he said.
Securex claims to be the first security company in Bangladesh. It started with only two guards in 1988. There were no more than five companies, including RORA and Shield (now Garda Shield), till 1990. G4s, Elite Force and some 30 companies opened up from 1990 to 2000. After 2000, almost 500 companies emerged across the country.
Lieutenant Colonel (retd) Khalid Azam, acting president of BPSSPA said that despite the growth in numbers, security agency businesses are facing severe problems.
"It is a very big challenge to continue the business now," he said.