Disability Rights Alliance


Saturday, 13 July 2013

Security agencies defend frisking disabled woman

13 July 2013 
Pragya Singh

New Delhi : The Airport security agencies in India find no wrong in frisking of disabled at the airports. Amidst the hullabaloo over the incident at Mumbai airport where a woman passenger was asked remove her prosthetic leg; security agencies said that the measure is taken to ensure that nothing suspicious is allowed to be carried by a passenger inside the aircraft.

It was also stated that post 9/11, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) protocol does not provide any leverage to an air traveller merely because of disabilities. They insisted that the artificial limb removal in no way followed to intrude into people's privacy.

Security authorities feel that the removal of the prosthetic limbs during the security drill should not be treated as an insult to the person. “Despite creating a fuss about the matter, people should come forward and cooperate with the security procedures followed. Passengers should treat this as a matter of national security and not a shameful act, which is just being followed to ensure the safety of the airport premises, aircraft as well as of the co-passengers,” said a senior BCAS official.

Senior BCAS officials said that the procedure to remove the artificial limb during the security drill has to be followed in case the frisking officer is not satisfied with its genuineness. Usually an explosive trace detector (ETD) is used to frisk the artificial limb. “Usually the prosthetic limbs, especially those imported from the other countries are very sophisticated in nature. These artificial limbs come in various types and may be added with the movement for the joints. In such cases, it becomes very difficult for the security personnel to ascertain the authenticity of the limb and ensure that the person is not taking its aid to smuggle suspicious objects,” he added.

He further said that not just the limbs, but the wheelchair and other aids are screened separately as part of the security procedure. “In case, the X-Ray machine is smaller in size to that of the wheelchair, manual frisking is done. The authorities cannot allow security lapse at the sensitive premises such as of the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport.” The security protocols, even if they demand the removal of the prosthetic limbs in some cases, have been set up to ensure the safety and security of the air travellers.

Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) officials too said that at many instances it becomes a necessity to get the artificial limbs removed so that nothing suspicious gets passed on to the aircraft. “At many instances, due to the sophisticated limbs worn by the passengers, it becomes a necessity to get the prosthetic limbs removed. To check the prosthetic limbs, usually an explosive trace detector (ETD) device is used. An ETD however, can only detect explosives and the suspicious objects such as knives can still be hidden inside. However, at times due to the sophisticated and complicated nature of the limbs, which are fitted with electronic gadgets it becomes next to impossible to ascertain its genuineness. In such cases, the official deployed for the frisking gets the limbs removed,” said CISF spokesperson, Hemendra Singh.

He, however, added that CISF personnel are trained to deal with such matters in a humane manner and such people are frisked in a separate room, keeping the privacy concerns in mind. “While dealing with the persons with disability or those who are unwell, the personnel have been instructed to follow a courteous manner, so that the security does not hurt the sentiments of such passengers. Even our personnel understand that the removal of the limbs causes inconvenience to the persons with disability, but it has to be followed in some cases to clear the suspicion of the constables deployed,” he added.