Security Concerns of JNU Campus: past learning and future directions

To

The Registrar

Jawaharlal Nehru University

New Delhi- 110067

Dear Prof. Ravikesh

This letteris a follow-up to the JNUTA statement issued on 25.03.22 after the massive case of theft in New Poorvanchal in a colleague’s house (please see attached). We present a detailed account of as many thefts in faculty houses that we had information of since 2019, and touch upon the nature of thefts, areas of concentration, occupancy conditions during theft as well as the follow up action by the security/JNU administration.

The list provided in Table 1 and 2 may not include all the cases of criminal trespass, break ins and theft, and is based on the information colleagues have shared with JNUTA at different points of time. From 2019 onwards, at the very minimum, there have been 13 incidents of theft, which points towards the extreme vulnerability that the campus residents have been exposed to in the recent years. There has also been a total lack accountability and commitment of the security service provider, JNU security staff and the JNU administration towards the safety and security of the residents in the past years.

Table 1: Nature of Theft since 2019

Sl. NumberDateKhandNature of theft
124-03-2022PoorvanchalEverything of value: House ransacked
207-12-2021OTHJewellery, Camera, other miscellaneous items
306-12-2021New PoorvanchalKeys stolen from car
411-01-2021UttarakhandCash, devices, other miscellaneous items: House ransacked
523-09-2021OTHWatch, door damaged: House ransacked
618-09-2020PoorvanchalEverything of value: House ransacked
705-09-2020NTHAttempted break-in
822-08-2020UttarakhandBreak-in, burglary thwarted, criminal trespass
916-05-2020UttarakhandEverything of value:House  ransacked
1026-11-2019PoorvanchalHouse ransacked
1120-04-2019PoorvanchalCash and device
1220-04-2019PoorvanchalBreak-in, burglary thwarted, criminal trespass
1304-04-2019UttarakhandDocuments and devices stolen

Table 2: Nature of occupancy during theft and follow-up action by security/police/JNU administration

Occupancy at time of theftSecurity aware of absenceSecurity/ police informed after theftPolice/ security action?Stolen goods recovered?Compensation from JNU?
1Home unoccupied for a few daysYesYesNil. Culprits not apprehendedNoNo
2Home unoccupied overnightNot applicableYesSame as aboveNoNo
3Car was unattended for a few minutesNot applicableYesSame as aboveNoNo
4Home unoccupied overnightNot applicableYesSame as aboveNoNo
5Home unoccupied for a few daysYesYesSame as aboveNoNo
6Home unoccupied during lockdown YesSame as aboveNoNo
7OccupiedNot applicableYesSame as aboveNANo
8OccupiedNot applicableYesSame as aboveNANo
9Home unoccupied intermittently, during theft for 2 days YesSame as aboveNoNo
10Home unoccupied for 2 days YesSame as aboveNoNo
11OccupiedNot applicableYesSame as aboveNoNo
12OccupiedNot applicableYesSame as aboveNoNo
13Unoccupied as usual during daytimeNot applicableYesSame as aboveNoNo

From the tables 1 and 2, map and the information we have verified from our colleagues, the following points emerge:

  1. Out of the 13 cases, 4 involved single women faculty members; three of these were those in which the colleagues were in the house when the burglary was attempted/done, putting them at acute danger of life and inducing long term psychological trauma.
  1. In 5 cases, the financial losses are immense where colleagues have lost all or most of the valuables they had in the house (Table 1).
  2. Most of the thefts were concentrated in Uttarakhand and Poorvanchal (old and new), areas that are close to exit points from the University (see map), which are supposed to be guarded round the clock. The thefts, however, were not restricted to these two localities as 3 incidents of theft happened in the transit accommodations (old and new) (see map), which also have a 24-hour deployment of security personnel.
  3. In 5 of the 13 cases, the houses were occupied (or vacant in daytime during office hours) when thefts occurred; in 8 of the 13 cases, the question of informing the security does not arise (Table 2).
  4. Out of the 7 cases where the houses were unoccupied at night, 2 were unoccupied overnight, 2 others were unoccupied for 2 nights; in 2 of the 3 cases that had longer vacancy, security was informed in advance (Table 2). Given the security circulars dated 17.05.2020 and 08.10.2020 urging residents to inform security of their absence ‘so that the security guards can keep extra vigil’ there is a case for an investigation of complicity of the security services at least in the 2 cases for which the security was informed of the vacancy of the house.
  5. It is evident that the houses and their occupants were watched, and the thefts are organised.
  6. Though in all cases the security and/or the police have been informed (FIR lodged in many cases), no conclusive action has been taken terms of apprehending culprits, recovery of stolen items or compensation paid in any of the cases (Table 2).
  7. The nature of psychological trauma that all the victims and their families had to undergo as reported by them is acute and long term.
  8. Overwhelming number of faculty members and their family members reported having lost confidence in the security mechanisms on campus, and many reported additional expenditure in installing additional security measures in the houses allotted to them by the university.

We have learnt that the JNU administration has put a security committee in place, which is mandated to facilitate the hiring of an alternative security agency. While we appreciate the promptness of this required action, there are issues that are important and urgent that may go unaddressed, if the only objective is to terminate the extended contract of Cyclops Security and Allied Services Pvt. Ltd. and hire the services of a new company.

The Cyclops Security and Allied Services Pvt. Ltd. has to be held responsible for what can be described at best their complete dereliction of duty to carry out the services they were hired for. In the tripartite contract dated 12.06.2019 signed by JNU (Employer), Army Welfare Placement Organization (Facilitator) and the Cyclops Security and Allied Services Pvt. Ltd. (Service Provider), the duties have been clearly specified, which includes under ‘Special conditions of contract’ clause 4.b:

‘Protection of property (movable or immovable) and personnel (faculty/officers/staff/student, official visitors and residents) of the university against wilful harm’.

The AWPO and the Cyclops Security and Allied Services Pvt. Ltd. should be made accountable for their gross failure to carry out their duties as specified in the contract. The JNUTA demands that compensation be paid to all the victims of theft, criminal trespass and criminal intimidation as per the specifications outlined in their respective complaints, before the security arrangements are changed.

Failing the above, no security agency in future would honour the JNU administration’s contract. 

The JNU security personnel must be accountable to the JNU community which includes all its residents.  It should be respectful towards students, staff and faculty. There should be no complaints of sexual harassment, drinking on duty or infringement of privacy as has been the case with the present security agency. The security agency must not be used to create a hostile, partisan and unsafe environment on campus. At the same time, the security must be provided basic facilities of water, cabins and bathrooms by the university administration.

Learning from the past experience, we expect the current administration to adopt a transparent process of recruitment of an accountable security service provider. In particular, the following points needs urgent attention:

  1. The process of tender should follow the letter and spirit of law. It should include in its advertisement the need for a professional and well trained security force which is sensitive and cognisant of the needs of students, staff and faculty on a residential university campus.
  2. The subsequent terms and conditions of the contract, including indemnity conditions should be accountable to all residents and members of the University.
  3. The said contract should be made available to representatives of different sections of the community, including the teachers, to facilitate an accountable and  consultative process of recruitment. The contract should have a zero toleration policy on sexual harassment or any form of violence that is perpetrated or supported by the security agency.
  4. A grievance redressal mechanism should be put in place with respect to the security services of the campus, in which representation from all sections of campus community is ensured.
  5. It has to be ensured that the system of security put in place is gender-sensitive, with inbuilt provisions of gender sensitization of the security personnel deployed on campus.

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