Monday, August 17, 2009

Insecure at an Indian Airport

I have held the view for a long time that Indian air passengers are plain lucky. In fact, there should be a prayer room at every arrival lounge because security at Indian airports is so lax that every time we fly and emerge at the other end of a flight alive, we can all head to the prayer room for a little thanks to the Almighty.

I was flying from Chennai to Calcutta a few days before Independence Day, when everything is generally on “high alert.” At the Chennai airport, the machine that puts the stubborn plastic tape around checked baggage was not working. No one put any stickers on my lock and neither did they insert a thin plastic strip through the zipper handle that keeps bags locked. All I got was a flimsy sticker with the date on it and that too was ready to drop off at the lightest touch. I could have put a baby crocodile into my suitcase if it had suddenly caught my fancy.

I handed over my bag to the airline agent hoping that there would be another level of security after that so that anyone else deciding to travel with live animals or explosive devices might yet be detected. But there probably wasn’t.

After collecting my boarding pass, I headed over for a personal security check. I entered the ladies screening area and as the bored lady in a khaki saree started running her metal detector device on my upper body, I remembered that I had a set of keys in my jeans. But before we could get to my lower half she surrendered her device, stamped my boarding pass and sent me on my way! If I’d had the time, I might’ve insisted, “Lady, I have metal in my pocket. Don’t you want to check?”

But she may have still said no because it was lunchtime and two of her colleagues were already at a table in the curtained screening area eating rice in an eager, hurried manner. I shoved off to collect my things.

Once at my destination a few hours later, I found that one of my bags arrived without its lock. It was gone. Vanished. These days it’s more worrying because of the things people can put into your bag rather than remove from it. Anyone could’ve introduced a packet of some banned substance and had any sniffer dogs been around I would probably be clocking time in jail. Curiously, nothing was stolen from my bag but I can’t rule out the possibility that the person trying was disgusted with the tangle of clothes and probably just gave up.

None of the scary scenarios involving baby reptiles and contraband substances took place of course. But the manner, in which security was handled, really does not inspire any confidence in the security measures in place at many Indian airports. Even the basic, very first level of security is handled in a half-hearted, bored, perfunctory way that makes it all one big joke. Laugh on. Pray on.


ZaBak said...

Yes i completely agree with you

Sathej said...

Can't agree more! Pathetic and scary at times!


Nagesh.MVS said...

Completely agree with u..

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Fazle Abbas said...

Shocking but true.Even Kennedys and Sharukhs are frisked in US but not here in India. Everything is left to chance