Amit Varma is a writer based in Mumbai. He worked in journalism for over a decade, and won the Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2007. His bestselling novel, My Friend Sancho, was published in 2009. He is best known for his blog, India Uncut. His current project is a non-fiction book about the lack of personal and economic freedoms in post-Independence India.
I have blogged before about how the malls in Mumbai tend to have security at the front entrance, and a terrorist could easily drive in to the parking lot in a car full of explosives and use the lift from there to enter the mall, strapped full of explosives. Well, front entrances aren’t much better.
Every time I go to Infiniti, my favourite mall because it contains the bookstore Landmark, the dude with the handheld metal detector does two things. One, he runs the detector over my left pocket, where I keep my cellphone and my keys—it beeps. Then he runs it over my right pocket, where I carry my wallet—it beeps. He then waves me through—no questions asked, no other part of my body checked.
In the Malad mall, In Orbit, they make me pass through a metal detector, and it always beeps. No matter, I am waved on through. Ditto at the Marriott in Juhu, where I once spotted Salman Khan—I’m guessing chinkaras would be stopped at the gate, so that’s okay.
And what about airports, where security should be highest? Well, there’s no checking of baggage all the way until the security check, so you could walk in with a bag full of explosives all the way till there. After that point, one would hope, we passengers are safe.
Or are we? Check out Jeffrey Goldberg’s splendid piece in The Atlantic, “The Things He Carried”, in which Goldberg describes how, with the help of security expert Bruce Schneier, he tested the USA’s airport security system in almost every detail—and found it wanting. As the introduction to the article says:
Airport security in America is a sham—“security theater” designed to make travelers feel better and catch stupid terrorists. Smart ones can get through security with fake boarding passes and all manner of prohibited items—as our correspondent did with ease.
Indeed, smart terrorists could also run circles around authorities in India with ease. Either the terrorists who’ve targeted us so far are not too smart—or we’ve been lucky. How long will that last, I wonder.
Also read: Bruce Schneier’s piece in Wired, “The Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Terrorists”, which challenges conventional wisdom about “what motivates terrorists in the first place.” (And while on the subject...)
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