Photo essay: The watchmen

Long hours, low salary —the life of a security guard can be lonely and tiring


Dilip Bharti works as a security guard in a housing colony in Ghaziabad. Photographs by Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Dilip Bharti works as a security guard in a housing colony in Ghaziabad. Photographs by Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Dilip Bharti, 28, hasn’t missed a day at work in the past two years.

“Even if I have fever, I don’t take off from work. I don’t get holidays. I come for work at night and get off early in the morning; I know the houses by their numbers, not their residents,” says Bharti, who works as a security guard at a housing colony in Ghaziabad. His work timings: 8pm-6am.

A security guard at Delhi’s Humayun’s Tomb.
A security guard at Delhi’s Humayun’s Tomb.

Taking an off would mean less salary at the end of the month. “How can one survive in a city like Delhi on a salary of Rs.7,000. Had I not been poor, I would not have worked here,” says Bharti, who has studied till class VIII and has a one-year-old daughter. Originally from Bihar’s Samastipur zila, he came to Delhi about 12 years ago in search of work. Before starting this job, he was a daily wager.

Vasudev guarding a supermarket store in Vasundhara, Ghaziabad.
Vasudev guarding a supermarket store in Vasundhara, Ghaziabad.

Almost a kilometre away, Vasudev, 50, has a similar story to narrate—he works as a security guard in a supermarket store. “Four years of drought (in Bundelkhand) left me with no money, so I came here. I now somehow manage with Rs.13,000 each month,” says the father of three, who works 12 hours a day—his shift starts at 8pm. But he does enjoy the power and authority that come with the job.

Yadav from Ara, Bihar, outside a designer store in Mehrauli.
Yadav from Ara, Bihar, outside a designer store in Mehrauli.

“Once a bus driver ran towards me while a group of robbers chased him. I showed them my gun, and they took a U-turn instantly,” he says with a proud, gleeful smile.

The “power” aspect aside, the work of a security guard can be tiring and lonely. With a stick and a chair to keep company, these people spend 8-12 hours a day on the job, and take home a meagre salary.

Narender Kevat is a guard at Ahilya Fort in Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh. This is his first job.
Narender Kevat is a guard at Ahilya Fort in Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh. This is his first job.

We met six guards in and around Delhi, and in Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh, to get a glimpse into their lives. All of them had this to say—a “powerful” thankless job, with little money and lot of work.

Daya Shankar Singh Yadav, an employee of security company G4S India, helps the Gurgaon traffic police in managing vehicles.
Daya Shankar Singh Yadav, an employee of security company G4S India, helps the Gurgaon traffic police in managing vehicles.

So, may be the next time you are out on your morning walk and happen to notice the security guard, a simple “hello” won’t hamper your schedule. As Bharti says, “Even a mere acknowledgement is sometimes enough.”

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