Saturday, January 20, 2007

Oops, I Forgot I Am Carrying A Gun On This Flight

Two months ago, I had an interesting encounter with Mumbai airport security. I was flying from Mumbai to London and carrying, among other, non-violent items, a small tube of pain relieving gel for my back. The brand is well-known and you can find it in any medical store in the nation.

I walked through the frisking counter to discover my haversack had been ominously laid on the table. The guy came over and asked me to open it up. He looked at the man facing the screen with the X-Ray images. “There is a tube in it,” the scanner said. The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) officer asked me to open my bag and take it out. I didn’t argue or anything, just said it was a pain relieving gel for my back. And it was a small tube, I demonstrated.

“No,” he said. “I need it,” I said. “Do you have a prescription then ?” he asked. "No," I said. And that was it, the tube went into the dustbin hopefully to be picked up and used by some baggage handler with a sprained back or shoulder, or at least I hope. London these days was on high alert - just after the big bomb attack in the sky scare and security was tight. And yet, despite my discomfiture, I was impressed with the sharpness of the Mumbai airport personnel.

Do You Know Who I Am ?

Well, the airport chaps (technically, the chaps who scan check-in baggage work for the airlines so it may not be the same) let a man with a revolver and 30 live cartridges go through Mumbai airport on January 13. By the way, we've had at least a dozen high alerts at the airports in the last six months. High alert, presumably, means you look for weapons and the like and not pain relieving gel. Anyway, the firearm was discovered in Dubai when the passenger landed. The authorities there must have called up the authorities here (this was an Air-India flight which itself answers a few unasked questions) and hell must have broken loose. Till it was all wonderfully covered up .

The possibilities of what and how are staggering. Lets look at them one by one. First, the man in question, businessman Nusli Wadia of the Bombay Dyeing Group, did not even put his baggage through security check. Second, his baggage whent through security check but the guys missed the gun and the bullets.

Third, they found the gun, discovered the bullets and asked for an explanation. However, when the passenger posed the big Indian question, “Do you know who I am ?”, they decided to let go. After all, he is a big businessman or a VIP. Frankly, I don’t what’s the most worrying or scary. Whether they knew there was a gun or they did not. Thankfully, the Dubai chaps were more alert or at least were not bought off.

Its My Servant's Fault, Catch Him

It gets worse. In Dubai, Nusli Wadia reportedly said he did not know the gun was in his bag because his servant packed it. So ? Well, we let go. After all, its not the poor man’s fault that his servant who packs his bags usually slips in a gun or two. And its only you and me who are asked every time when checking in whether we packed our own bags and whether anything untoward might have crept in.

And the best part is this. In Dubai, when challenged, Wadia apparently fished out an arms permit and said he had a license to carry the gun. Sure. So, we are now to believe the servant inadvertently packed the gun but Mr Wadia advertently carried the license. How convenient ! Lets assume the license arrived later and the servant did indeed slip in a gun. Wow ! What kind of `domestic help' does that ?

Okay, Ramu, I might need a gun on this trip because I have a few business deals to crack so pack my gun. Or, sir, would you like to pack the gun and the shaving kit together or seperately ? Amazingly, you can blame the servant and get away. At least, as it appears, a businessman of some repute can. What do you think would have happened to any of us were we to be caught with a gun in the check-in baggage ?


George on 4:51 pm said...

If any security officer in the airport had caught Nusli Wadi, he would have been immediately transferred/punished for interfering with a person of such a high stature.

So it is unfair to blame low ranked employees of CISF/Air India. Unfortunately, 2 of these persons have been suspended-wrong in my opnion,

The real problem is the CULTURE, that allows the rich to break rules.

CJ on 5:31 pm said...

Course this is freedom of speech... but insinuation is a different ballgame! Truth is ... if I were you, I'd probably be equally cynical :) So, all i can say is that there is real side to a businessman called Nusli Wadia and it ain't me...

Blog-Capt. Anup Murthy on 2:05 pm said...

This is because there are two India's. One for the rich and hoity toity and the other for the common sucker who goes about his day in frustration. Even if the man is a nice guy and all that, should there then be no accountability at allthen and should this just be brushed under the carpet? If the lapse was not on part of Mr. Wadia, this incident must at least be used to shake up the system to prevent future security breaches.

Anonymous said...

Govind, now you know why Praful Patel is so keen on allowing SEZ type of private airports for our "private airlines".
God alone knows what will get transported and where !
One good question to ask the Aviation Minister no ?
Sadly some CISF guy who is probably given a VVIP list of persons who cannot be frisked or whose baggage cannot be checked has been suspended. And Mr Wadia being a British passport holder makes the case all the more quirkier !


Anonymous said...

Shame on you NRIs,like Anup Murthy, who never do anything for the country but still criticise. Why do you want to not do your duty to India? At least there are some bureaucrats to try to make a difference, but you do NOTHING. Shame on you

Blog-Capt. Anup Murthy on 3:17 pm said...

what i have done or not done is none of your business. If you can't take criticism, be just that, an Indian crab. You don't even have the guts to identify yourself. Why depend on NRI's? Can't you resident Indians do something instead of making personal attacks on a blog? You do your duty, it is not your right to ask of others. Shows the kind of mentality that exists.

Anonymous said...

as far as the word for mentality goes, i would like to remind that the personal attacks can remain at bay when we are discussing an important issue of national security.
Yes NRIs like captain tend to forget that when anything untoward happens in their present countries they will come begging all the way to india and then boast about their menial jobs there..

the question is whether there is an intent to stop corruption and red tapism...i think that is pretty much missing..and that is where the loop hole is..CISF and media cannot be the one to catch people like nusli wadia everytime. We got to rise above our differences for the sake of our national security and maintain the integrity. These people often bring shame to the nation and it;s efforts to have a peaceful tommorow.
And also what can more insane than blaming the poor servant. Grow up Sir!!!

Blog-Capt. Anup Murthy on 8:44 am said...

I haven't come back to India begging work at any time for the last twenty years that I've been overseas and I have kept my nationality intact. There's nothing wrong in doing menial jobs although my position as head of aviation for a decade and half is hardly menial and what gives you the right to defame people you don't know anything about?
The other way around is that there's a bunch of us who have done and continue to do works in India. You made a general comment on NRI's and named me! That is a personal attack that you say must be kept at bay!
There's a billion plus people in India who can change the system for the better. So why is this reliance on NRI's to bail you out of the problems that can be solved internally? Don't forget that NRI remittances back home is one of the biggest earners of foreign exchange for India and NRI's traveling back has become the biggest boost to tourism industry. It is because lots of us care and it is unfair to call us names. There's a billion of you, you do something first and then point fingers at others.
I agree with you that security lapse is a serious issue whether it involves Nusli Wadia or anyone else. I also agree that scape goats at a lower level are not used as cover ups. What can an NRI do about that? And because one NRI acts funny, you don't go around labelling all of them as traitors. There are more traitors living in India who have sold the country down the river and there is a history of these things.

Anonymous said...

Laws in India do not apply to the elite. We are still a feudal society.
Huzoor can pretty much do what he wants, how can a lowly govt. naukar question him?
Why not? Because the naukar does not have social security to fall back on when he loses his job.

AJ on 6:25 pm said...

Gentlemen, its 'a billion of us' and not 'billion of you'.. lets face it.. a low level govt. employee will be intimidated when faced with a 'do you know who i am' type question..
I have seen this very question being used long back.. we were on a trip from college and had settled for the night in a hotel.. some rich guys were partying and having a camp fire kind of thing in the hotel premises.. the hotel wallahs asked them to stop the party after 10:00 so as not to disturb the guests.. and one of the guys popped this 'do you know who i am' question.. in the end, the hotel guys had to back off..
the thing is, no one has the guts to stand up and no one will back those who stand up.. all we can do (myself included) is to crib about this..

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cool on 1:47 pm said...


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