Airport Touch and Probe


I go through airport security every week in India.

Of late, I am noticing that the touch by the security officer is very firm and probing, even if the metal detector does not detect any metal (or whatever it is supposed to detect). I saw a Westerner squirming ahead of me when he was firmly touched all over his body to find if anything is hidden inside his pant pockets and shirt pockets, and on the back of his shirt and pant. Well, I have stopped squirming and getting ticklish. Just go through the process. After all it is for the security of the passengers ! Nothing can be done to change the process, as Indian Security checks at airports is based mostly on X-ray scanning of your hand baggage and physical frisking of your body (parts) ! That is the way it is, and nothing much can be done about it.

It will take a long time before the full-body scanner which you see in the U.S. airports to arrive in Indian airports. First, that costs much more money than the physical frisker. Second it is expensive to monitor and maintain. So, for the foreseeable future, you are going to be physically frisked in Indian airports, and frankly I believe it is a better way to ensure higher level of security for passengers.

The security officer even opens your wallet and business card holder, and fells your back and moves the metal detector aggressively over your body, sometimes hitting some body parts ! Well, we have to tolerate all that, there is no choice, because any one of us could be trouble makers on a particular flight, and the only way to ensure that the trouble is minimized to the maximum extent is to frisk thoroughly. And, also to use old-fashioned baggage tags on hand baggage which carries a stamp by the X-ray scanners, which will be checked atleast twice manually before you get to board your flight.

Al this helps. There may be loop holes, I don’t know, but things look much more organized in airports these days. They check the boarding pass or the e-ticket against your personal identification before they let you into the airport, I do not know of any country which does this – it provides an additional step in ensuring security. Then at the airline check-in counters, often they ask for identification again, before they issue the boarding pass or stamp the boarding pass that you brought. The baggage is then put on the conveyor belt, well yes it has not been checked till this stage – previously they insisted on sending your check-in bags through an X-ray scanner at the entrance to the check-in area.

Then comes the security check and the physical frisking. All this is good and expected of the security these days. I saw once the El Al airlines staff asking tough questions to passengers destined for Tel Aviv. May be they have already profiled each one of them and just verifying some data. I think such measures are required of passengers travelling to troubled countries.

But many passengers have still not learnt their lessons – they still carry water bottles in their hand baggage, they carry prohibited substances which delays the security queue, and are not aware of many rules which have been put in place – some printed and verbal education is desirable.

So, for people new to India, get ready for the constant “touch and probe” at airport security. To ensure your own security in these tough times !

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
13th August 2011
Mumbai

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