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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Tout clout rips airport shield

A racket involving touts, who fleece passengers at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, has been brought to light by security personnel. Around 15 to 20 touts involved in it have been identified.

These touts enter the airport after buying a visitor’s ticket for Rs 50 two to three times a day and meet their contacts to strike a deal once a passenger is caught carrying undisclosed foreign goods by the law-enforcing authorities, either at the Customs terminal or the immigration wing, officers claim.

The touts lend the required sum to the hapless passenger, who pays the dues and gets his goods released. But he has to pay an extra 10 per cent interest to the tout, which is later distributed among their contacts.

The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) has recently bolstered security in and around the international terminal to try and keep the touts at bay. “Once they buy the visitors’ tickets, there is nothing one can do to stop them,” admit CISF officers.

At a recently-held emergency meeting with the Airports Authority of India (AAI), CISF commanding officer Bal Kishen suggested that each person buying a visitor’s ticket should enter his name in a register, so that security personnel can easily identify and segregate the touts.

Bal Kishen said: “Once it becomes mandatory for them to sign their names, we can easily haul them up for entering the airport several times a day with an ulterior motive.”

The Airlines Operators Committee, too, has raised the issue of touts operating inside the airport. The CISF top brass said they were open to the idea of a joint action team with the police and AAI personnel to crack down on touts, if necessary.

Explaining how the touts operate, a senior officer said most touts, who lend money to passengers or carriers, “hang around a temple located near the parking lot. They sneak into the airport whenever necessary, either on the pretext of watching aircraft from the balcony or, at times, pretending to receive passengers”.

Deputy airport director P.G. Pai said he was aware of the “tout issue” and the nexus with officers at the airport. “I think the onus is on the CISF to stop the touts from entering the airport. We told them that they reserve the authority to bar these touts, whom everyone seems to know, from entering the airport,” Pai said.

Assistant commissioner (Customs) at the airport, Asim Kumar, dismissed the alleged nexus of touts with some officers as “fictitious”. “I keep a close watch on the activities of my men, whose uniforms can be easily identified. We are on the alert,” he added.

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