Driven by fear

Security equipment sellers and service providers are enjoying better businesses following the terror attacks last month. Ahmed Shatil Alam writes 

Photos by INDRAJIT GHOSH

Security-equipmentIt was like any other day when Shibli Ahmed, a Dhaka-based businessman went to a restaurant in Dhanmondi with his girlfriend to have dinner. After he reached, before entering he saw an archway that was installed at the door and a couple of newly-appointed security guards asked them to hand their bags for any unlawful contents in them. After checking the bags, the guards ran metal detectors from a distance over their bodies. The whole procedure took nearly three minutes leaving Shibli disappointed.
But this is the common scenario in Dhaka right now following the attack at Holey Artisan bakery inside the capital’s diplomatic zone on July 1 where more than 20 lives were killed. Security has been beefed up in most shopping malls, airports, five star hotels and other important civil places.
The attack by a group of terrorists consisting of six youth did not only kill 20, it has also instilled a sense of fear in the society.
Less than a week after that, another significant attempt was made by another group of terrorists on the day of Eid Ul Fitr at Sholakia eid congregation in Kishoreganj. But luckily the police managed to foil the plot leading to the deaths of four including an attacker, an innocent civilian and two cops.

Sanaul Haque

Sanaul Haque

The series of incidents triggered a significant fear among the people. Most restaurants, banks, schools, launches, places of religious worship and others have come under police and private security.
After the attacks, a 24-hour police protection has been provided at the
Shia Mosque at Mohammadpur area in Dhaka alike some other places. Owners of shops, restaurants, launches, schools and other organisations are also thronging the security equipment shops to buy items like close circuit camera, archways, metal detectors etc. Others are hiring private security personnel. Besides commercial organisations, some landlords are also installing such systems in their buildings.
While talking to New Age Xtra, security equipment sellers and security personnel company officials shared that the security equipment and services sector have been enjoying an increase in business over the last two or three years. The boom has been significant after the July attacks.
Security-equipment3According to Razib Rahim, director at Orient Computers, a Dhaka-based security equipments and technology company, over the past few weeks the queries on such products have risen significantly. ‘People are more concerned about security at their homes and workplaces,’ he says. ‘Therefore the businesses related to such products have nearly doubled over the past month,’ he adds.
In Bangladesh, currently people are looking for CCTV system packages, that includes one or more indoor or outdoor close circuits cameras, monitors, hard disks etc, he says.
He also shares that installing a CCTV system now costs between Tk 30,000 to Tk 1 lakh, based on the number of cameras and product quality. He, however, says that in recent days due to increasing demand, the Chinese-made cheap cameras have flooded the market, which are not quality products.
He informs that earlier big business organisations and shopping malls installed such equipment in their vicinities. ‘Now school authorities, banks, restaurants and independent house owners are also joining the two previous groups of customers,’ he shares.

During a recent visit to Gulistan’s Stadium Market, which is known for its security device shops as well as electronic item selling stores, New Age Xtra found many customers seeking information and buying security devices. SM Mahbubul Karim, who runs a wedding related business house in Syedpur, came to Dhaka just to buy security equipment for his office. ‘After the attacks, I thought I should install CCTV system at my office to ensure security,’ he tells New Age Xtra.
Security-equipment4Sadab al Seraj, who runs a kindergarten school in Dhaka, was also at the market to buy security devices for his school. ‘These days we cannot trust anyone,’ he says. ‘As I have a school where hundreds of children come every day to study, I need to ensure their security,’ he reasons.
He also shares that after consulting a relative who works at one of the law enforcement agencies, he has made the decision to install an archway and few CCTV cameras in and outside the school premises. ‘It is a bit expensive. But I have to ensure security,’ he adds.
Academia, an English medium school from where Taj-ul-Haque Rashik, a suspected militant killed during a police block raid at Kallyanpur area had attended O’ level exams, has recently installed an archway.
Other schools are taking additional measures.
For example, New Age Xtra has come to learn from several students of Dhaka-based DPS STS School at Uttara that the school authorities have asked its student to not play during tiffin period and after the class time just to avoid threats.
Many educational institutions including Chittagong University and Independent University Bangladesh installed CCTV cameras at the campus and archways after the attacks, shared students of these institutions.
According to the security product sellers, prices of archway ranges from Tk one lakh to three lakhs and hand used scanners range from Tk 2,500 to Tk 3,500. Dhaka based security product businessman, Dreambox Ltd owner Pinak Roy, says over the last month their sale has increased more than double. Around 50 landlords in Dhaka had purchased such products from them over last two months, he shares. He also shares that many people from outside of Dhaka also call him to get these products.
Shamim Islam, a landlord of Shewrapara area, says he had installed a CCTV system for Tk 50,000 last month. ‘There was a time when we were so tensed about the thieves, but now we are tensed about terrorists…We had to install these to provide a sense of security to our tenants,’ he says.
Security-equipment5While talking to New Age Xtra, private security firm officials divulged that after the shocking attacks many schools like Aga Khan School, business houses, banks and corporate houses have sought their help to provide more security personnel who can act appropriately in case of any dangerous situations.
While acknowledging the trend, a top official of a multi-national private security services company says, ‘Despite the demand, Bangladesh still lacks properly trained private security personnel.’ ‘Most people are setting up these private security companies without proper knowledge of how these operate …therefore the proper security measures may not be ensured if a real incident occurs,’ he adds.
He also stresses that in Bangladesh the remuneration of private security personnel are very low and these personnel often have to work more than 12 hours each day. ‘If a person works for 12 hours, then he needs proper sleep and food, but most employers do not want to provide these opportunities,’ he says.
The citizens, however, have mixed reactions on increased security measures in organizations and private buildings.While some feel that these will likely hamper the liberty of people in many ways, others feel the need for these so that incidents like the Gulshan and Sholakia attacks can be prevented.

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