Author : Deepak Sinha

Originally Published 2015-05-27 00:00:00 Published on May 27, 2015
In Delhi, the Army still honours its martyrs in the airport parking lot as, ostensibly due to security concerns, it doesn't have access to the reception area built last year.
Heroes Humiliated in the name of Security

In a TED Talk a few of years back, Mr Niall Ferguson, eminent Scottish economic historian and Harvard professor, makes the interesting point that, by 1977, Britain had become 10 times more prosperous than either India or China, though all three started from nearly the same base around the 16th century. He said that the most important factor for this was that Britain had institutionalised the rule of law.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, despite his emphasis and focus on the developmental agenda for this country, is badly constrained in this regard. Forget the Indian public, even our Ministers and leaders, across the often political spectrum, often display an arrogant disregard for the rule of law. One small example was Mr Ashok Gajapathi Raju's proud proclamation last month that he carries matchboxes on flights because, as Civil Aviation Minister, he is not frisked at airports. That he made the comment while speaking on aviation security was ironic.

The statement shows the social and cultural difficulties that Mr Modi's developmental agenda faces, but what is worth highlighting is the utter silence on the part of those who deal with aviation security — the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security. This is understandable because no bureaucrat wants to be pitted against his own Minister, let alone initiate action against him for breach of security protocols. Thus, by its inaction over an innocuous matter, the BCAS has foregone its credibility to supervise aviation security. One wonders at the rationale for such an organisation, undoubtedly at great expense to the tax payer, if it is to only provide sinecures to senior bureaucrats.

While this august body may have held its peace when it comes to dealing with the transgressions of its Minister, it has no qualms about pulling its punches when it comes to other issues, such as the manner in which our martyrs from Jammu & Kashmir are received at Delhi Airport. It may come as a rude shock to most readers that the current area where the martyrs are received and accorded full military honours, before their coffins are transported to the families, is a small desolate spot, around abandoned garages when there is uncleared construction material, broken roofing and discarded liquor bottles, within the car park of the cargo complex of Delhi airport's Terminal 2.

This is where the Army has received the bodies of at least 26 martyrs over the past few months. This is not because the Army is lacking in sensitivity or avoiding ceremonial gestures but because the BCAS has ensured that the reception area, built at a cost of Rs32 lakh on a 625sqm plot, remains locked and unused, since its completion in August 2014. The BCAS says that regulations do not permit the proposed ceremony and guard of honour at the airport premises.

One presumes this must be due to security concerns, since ceremonial area is just 50m from the aircraft taxi tracks. But it turns out that adjacent to this reception area is a Sufi shrine dedicated to two saints — Roshan Khan Baba and Kaley Khan Baba. The BCAS has no problems permitting more than 500 visitors daily to visit this shrine, under armed escort. It even goes so far as to organise buses for their transportation. It stands to reason that in the eyes of the BCAS none of these pilgrims pose a threat to airport security. That seems to be only posed by those in the military who come to pay their respects and honour their fallen in battle!

(The writer is a consultant with the Observer Research Foundation)

Courtesy: (The Pioneer) 26 May, 2015

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Deepak Sinha

Deepak Sinha

Brig. Deepak Sinha (Retd.) was Visiting Fellow at ORF. Brig. Sinha is a second-generation paratrooper. During his service, he held varied command, staff and instructional appointments, ...

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