Feel Safe, Air-borne!!!

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Few days back, I happened to glance through the edition of Indian Express. I came across a rather exciting news piece. The caption which read ‘security that you can’t see’ caught my attention. These words propelled me to dig deep into the article. As I gradually read through, it unfolded few exciting new facts about airport security of the Indianapolis International Airport terminal which, it stated, would open this fall. Latest techno-savvy million dollar luggage scanners, concrete bollard guards, blast-resistant glass has added an altogether different dimension to airport security.

As I read through, it brought out a very evident fact which probably laid the grounds for the development of such stringent security measures- the 9/11 attacks, which alone has contributed to arousal of a certain unique kind of fear and terror among the public and specially towards air traffic. Among all these harangue of facts, I could not keep myself from wondering about the financing that went behind all these massive billion dollar projects and their further maintenance. My curiosity was quickly answered by the following paragraph which went on to state that airports have spread out the cost of these upgrades using bond revenues, rent hikes and parking garage money among other sources of income. Still, some of the income filters down in the form of higher prices for a cup of coffee or a parking space. I will not discuss the other security intricacies in this context but would surely wish the passengers a happy and safe journey. But one question keeps hovering around the corner of my mind- do people really feel safe or are they really safe in the presence of such gizmos and gazettes?

Suddenly the thought clouded my mind that while the other parts of the world are focusing keenly on security paradigm and re-vamping the entire scenario with high tech accessories, what about the Indian storyline. I remember reading an article in The Times of India where the Government was reported to have taken immediate steps after reviewing the security situation at the airports during the serial blasts in Mumbai and Srinagar. The paramilitary forces were deployed at the terminals to ensure extra security efficiency during these high-alert situations. But I feel, as in many other of such high-end sensitive issues that the precaution should be proactive and not reactive. In a report on Global Airport Security, it stated that after several years focused on domestic security, the US is now ratcheting up efforts to thwart threats aboard, which, unfortunately seems to be formidable.

But we still fall short of predicting such security urgency resulting in certain unavoidable mishaps taking a toll on human lives and their families. The Government should realize that it is high time to address the absence of baseline security standards, which should be the next challenge in securing the skies. Few days back on June 9, 2008, another article on airport security in The Time of India threw light on the Indian side of the story. It mentioned how the “hyper-sensitive” Delhi terminal is going hi-tech with an array of new techno gazettes to ensure a less time consuming and ‘safe’ journey for the passengers. Being one of the most populated airports in India, the security protocols of the Delhi airport is of prime importance for the Government and the public alike. The article broadened my knowledge on the introduction of the current security upgrades in one of the busiest terminal of the nation. The series of hi-tech accessories include a four-layer “perimeter intrusion system”, internet-protocol-based cameras, in-line baggage clearing system and explosive vapour detectors among few others to counter the threats to the airport. Two ground bomb killer blankets (GBK) will also be available in the terminal buildings to safeguard against any explosives or dangerous objects. The full-fledged security project along with a central monitoring control unit will be functional from 2010 as per the report. The implementation time seems so near yet so far. Why we still lag behind in such security measures while the global arena has seen a make-over years back.

Probably these high-tech names will help volatilize the fear regarding safety and security in the minds of the passengers to some extent but will it ever succeed in obliterating the terror-stricken nightmares altogether? Few of the airport and flight mishaps contouring around terrorist attacks in the recent past have condoned every passenger in a state of uncertainty and fear. The nullifying effect could possibly include bridging the gap by a mortar of trust, care and assurance. Next time I travel, I might feel satisfied with all the high-tech security around, but still at some remote corner of my mind, I struggle with an invisible fear. Every stone has been tuned to make me feel safe, but am I really ‘safe’?

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