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Monday, 23 September 2013

Nairobi didnt learn from 26/11, have we?

While entering a shopping mall you are greeted by safari wearing men, they ask you to pass through a DFMD (Door Frame Metal Detector) they touch your various body parts with hand held metal detectors, another guy asks you to open your bag and just peeps into it and then you gain access to the mall. Every time I visit a mall or a famous temple in Mumbai, I experience a mixed feeling of anger, amusement & disappointment for this so called “Security Check” procedure. To be blunt, they are good for nothing. Just look at the faces and body language of the guys who have been assigned this job. They look bored, uninterested and act like robots. Touching the hand held metal detector to your body or having a look at your bag just seems to be a ritual. They don’t seem to be genuinely interested in scrutinizing your belongings and finding something suspicious or objectionable from you. Often, I wonder, if some criminal or terrorist is really caught with arms then what will they do? Most of the private guards employed by shopping malls in Mumbai are unarmed. By the time they respond to the situation or call the police, the ill intentioned guy would begin doing what he intended to do. My observations of security arrangements at public places in Mumbai have made me believe that they are a sham. Once, I did a sting operation in 2010 to check security arrangements at Mumbadevi Temple and easily managed to gain entry with a metal toy gun. I also kept a black coloured bag in the temple complex which neither caught attention of the private security guards, nor the local cops posted at the temple. The premises was cctv monitored.

At most of the public places where private security guards are deployed, I don’t see that they are effective. I also have doubts on their training and ability to deal with situations when somebody with arms confronts them. Neither the car parks of shopping malls etc seem to be safe, although, there might be guards at the entrance who will check the bottom of your car with a mirror and ask you to open the dickey of your car. This car check just seems to be an eyewash. I don’t think they have any means to determine whether the vehicle is carrying explosives. The whole procedure seems to be pointless & gives you a false sense of security. Airport is the only place in Mumbai where I see that the security is taken seriously (some may have doubts on that also). Even if you are carrying a shaving razor or a cigarette lighter there is a 99% chance that it will get detected by CRPF guys. I remember returning from Kualalumpur in 2010 when my cameraman cleared the much casually implemented security check procedure and boarded the aircraft with a lighter unintentionally. Remember, in the case of IC-814 hijacking in 1999, the hijackers had boarded the flight from Kathmandu & not from any of the Indian airports.

I have undergone security procedures at the US airports & numerous federal buildings at Washington DC and New York City including the UN headquarters. Everywhere, I have found that there is no nonsense approach towards security & men deployed for the job display thorough professionalism. They aren’t posted there just to make their presence felt & aren’t overconfident that the evil doer will deter from carrying out his mission just by looking at them. Many people criticise the security checks in the US as disrespectful, impolite and absurd, but I think whatever the accusations may be, US has learnt right lessons post 9/11.

Humans learn from their mistakes. Mumbai city which has seen 12 terrorist attacks since last 10 years which killed around 500 people & injured more than 1000 should have learnt its lessons by now. At least post 26/11 attacks which were the worst in the history of free India should have made us more sensitive towards the security requirements of Mumbai. By “us” I mean not just the governmental agencies, but also private bodies & individuals. Being safe is everybody’s concern. However, it is sad & worrisome that we haven’t learnt our lessons yet. Still we are very much vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

It is not that our security agencies are not doing anything. Frequent mock drills by our commando forces at temples, schools, hotels etc show that they are always in preparation for the worst. You will also see frequent nakabandis on streets when some national celebration like Independence Day or Republic Day is approaching. Here, my question is that shall we just rely on the security forces to protect us? We know their limitations & also the characters of the politicians who command them, and then, how far will it be prudent to just be dependent on them? Moreover, they may not be the first responders all the time in an adverse situation. The first responders might be anybody from general public to private security guards. The idea of security has to be multifaceted involving every section of our social structure. The collective consciousness of becoming safe & taking onus on oneself is required. So next time when you are frisked at the entrance of a shopping mall, don’t believe that this is going to take care of our security inside.

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