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 ?