The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Airport turns into fortress

New Delhi, Aug. 14: An unsuspecting flyer might think he had just walked into a fortress.

On Independence Day eve, as the dark shadow of terror lengthened across airports, employees were on edge and security personnel were not taking any chances.

Two ground staff, overheard talking about planting something in an Air Deccan flight, were whisked away by police. It later turned out that the two were talking about supply of tissues.

“Nerves are taut here, nobody is taking any chances,” said a CISF officer.

So police dogs sniffed at every corner, quick reaction commandos watched every movement and bunkers bristled with guns.

Passengers were told to consume soft drinks or fruit juice they had planned to carry. People travelling with “holy water” were asked to junk it. Those with mobiles were told to ring the last three numbers they dialled. Virtually all security counters had piles of confiscated gels, shampoos and toothpaste tubes.

People carrying battery-operated toys were asked to check them in and give their ticket numbers to security staff. Passengers who avoided eye contact were pulled up for an extra round of body or baggage search, the logic being they might have something to hide.

“Things are really tough for passengers but all this is to ensure they fly safe,” the CISF officer said.

Airports have placed orders for new gizmos they hope will allow them to screen passengers better.

From i-Pod-like human scan machines to sophisticated explosive detection devices, the gizmo-buying spree is expected to cost airports crores of rupees. But officials said it was better to feel safe after “spending money than to express regret later”.

Airport officials said they were trying to beef up other security systems by streamlining access through smart cards, introducing passenger profiling and strengthening cockpit doors of state-run planes.

Sources said security agencies have also asked airlines to install communication systems inside planes to communicate with ground staff in a hijack situation.

The ring of steel is not only around airports, the skies, too, have been sanitised.

No kites will fly within a 3-km radius of Red Fort tomorrow. Delhi police fear that terrorists could use kites as unmanned aerial vehicles to carry out a lethal attack on the fort, where the country’s top leaders will assemble.

There was high security below the surface, too, as Delhi Metro banned water bottles and food packets on all trains. The number of rifle-wielding forces has been increased three to four times at stations.

The police said they were more worried about security on Janmastami, which falls on August 16, as large numbers of people will throng temples.

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