Shutting the stable door, after…

Posted: September 8, 2011 in Terrorism
Tags: , , ,

Last Thursday I was at Pune International Airport on my way to Kochi via Bengaluru. Since I had just some hand luggage I ran it through the scanner and as I stepped forward for a body check, I was watching the face of the security personnel. It was 5.30 am, and he was either completely bored with his job or still only half awake, because he ran the metal detector over my person, in a manner that suggested that he would rather be back home in bed. He was anything but sleepy, as I realised later. At one point as he ran the device under my arms he asked me what was in my trouser pocket! Taken aback, I pulled out some pieces of mint. He ran the device over it and then I wondered whether he was going to ask me to swallow one, just to see if I would self-destruct! He then opened my wallet and saw my PRESS card and decided that I was harmless. But he still ran the device over it before letting me through.

At the Bengaluru International Airport, the same afternoon, as I was passing through security, to take the flight to Kochi, I watched very interestedly as an elderly but dishevelled gentleman with a slight speech disorder argued with the security personnel about the aftershave in his bag. The uniformed chap just pulled out the aftershave and a canister of deodorant and asked the old man very quietly which one he wanted to retain. As the man argued on, the security guy, silently, picked up the deo and flung it on the floor, where it lay with a dozen or so more such canisters. He then picked up a cigarette lighter and flung that down as well. By then the old man had turned red and sullen. He turned sarcastically to the security man and asked if he wanted the cigarette packet too. The guy smirked and stuck out his palm. The old man realised he was beaten and quietly left.

Even more interesting was the scene a few feet away. A bearded young man was asked to open his bags and remove everything. The securityman then opened a Bournvita bottle which was among his stuff. He then stuck a pin-shaped metal detector inside, then pulled it out and inserted into a machine with a computer screen. He did that with each bottle and this kid had quite a few. He was obviously a student going back to college loaded with goodies his mom must have packed for him. Very patiently the kid opened each bottle and shut it after it was checked and repacked all his stuff. But he didn’t once lose his cool and even thanked the security personnel as he left.

Yesterday, as I watched the scenes of the carnage at the Delhi High Court, I thought about the scene at the Pune and Bengaluru airports and thanked my stars that at least someone cared for our safety. What is even more tragic is the fact that the incident could have been avoided if the cops had been more vigilant and had there been CCTVs installed, the procurement of which was still in the tendering process, since July last after a bomb was discovered at the same venue. Unfortunately, what’s more important for our officials is to clear a ward of ‘unwelcome’ relatives visiting the seriously injured, because some politicians want to indulge in their five minutes of PR activity.

And then today, a Pune tabloid had a front-page report about the Pune Railway station, which said that conscientious passengers got their baggage scanned on their own since there was no experienced person manning the x-ray machines! So when did you last hear about a bomb-carrying terrorist putting his baggage through a scanner? Well if the Pune Police is to be believed, that’s probably what they are expecting. Also, that there was no security paraphernalia at such places even two hours after the blast in Delhi. So much for terror alerts and messages on being vigilant! And this in a city now recognised, as a sanctuary for terrorist sleeper cells.

I am appalled at the complete lack of urgency being shown by the cops. I understand that they are severely short-staffed and are jittery about the mayhem that could be caused if something untoward occurs at the Ganesh mandals, but to leave a railway station or a bus terminal completely unguarded is asking for trouble. When will our cops learn that it’s no use checking bags after a blast? I guess this happens because of the general attitude of “jab hoga tab dekha jayega” that pervades every strata of our society. But they’re not alone to blame. A lot of us are like the old man, when we should be like the young guy who I saw at Bengaluru airport.

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