The CISF will no longer carry out the “humiliating” airport security drill of asking people with disabilities (PWDs) to remove their prosthetics or making passengers get up from their wheelchair for screening, said a top official. In a major decision aimed at easing air travel woes of those who are disabled, the Central Industrial Security Force will use explosive trace detectors (ETDs) and visual profiling, said CISF Director General (DG) O P Singh. CISF took the decision to undertake a massive training of its personnel to usher in the new regime at all Indian airports under its cover following a recent meeting with PWD activists, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) and other stakeholders.
It will also conduct a country-wide survey to find out how many such passengers travel by air each day.
“The aim is to ensure that such passengers do not face any humiliation or uneasiness when they travel through Indian airports. We have seen numerous complaints in this regard. “What we have decided now is to use explosive trace detectors and the visual profiling method of the passenger and his prosthetic tool or wheelchair rather than asking them to take out everything,” Singh told PTI. PTI was the first to report that the force was considering doing away with cumbersome security procedures of frisking PWDs by using smart gadgets instead. An ETD is a smart machine which sniffs explosive particles or traces present in a device and gives an alert.
According to Singh, the current procedure of asking passengers to take off their prosthetics before boarding a flight and displacing those on wheelchair, so that it can be put in a scanner, will only be resorted to in “select cases or in case of suspicion”. “We are soon going to issue a fresh list of standard operating procedures (SOPs) to usher the new regime in a uniform manner,” he said. “We will also conduct a survey at all the 59 airports that we guard to see how many such PWD passengers we receive on an average. That will give us a fair idea as to how to go about implementing the new SOPs.”
A senior official in the CISF airport sector said they have estimates that about eight-10 such passengers use Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) everyday, the busiest airport in the country. “Passengers with prosthetics will be asked to remove them only under compelling circumstances which will be purely security concerns. The same procedure will be adopted for wheelchair bound passengers and those with other disabilities,” the official said. The director general added that CISF was also looking at “simplifying the security procedures for passengers with orthopaedic issues.”
In case of prosthetics with foam padding, he said, CISF personnel will use new SOPs but can seek its removal, keeping in mind security concerns. Disability rights activist Javed Abidi, who attended a recent meeting with the CISF authorities on the subject, raised his concerns during a recent conversation. “I have travelled across the globe for so many years now but only at an Indian airport do I have to get down from my wheelchair so that the security personnel on duty can put it inside a large x-ray machine to check it against explosives and other hazardous material that can be threat to the aircraft or aviation security,” Abidi, the convener of the Disabled Rights Group, said. It is very difficult and embarrassing, he said, for people who have prosthetic or artificial limbs to take out the entire part in full public view inside an airport. The CISF is the central paramilitary force tasked with guarding 59 civil airports in the country.