29/10/2015 1:10 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Don't Blame Airport Security For The Queues. It's Your Handbags, Say Airport Cops

Sculptures in the likeness of passengers stand on display at the Delhi Metro Airport Express Line station in New Delhi, India, Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011. The metro line linking New Delhi Metro Station to the Indira Gandhi International Airport began services Saturday and plan to offer passengers the facility to check-in at metro stations. (AP Photo/Mustafa Quraishi)

In 2013, Aakar Patel, a columnist at Mint, attacked the inherent inefficiency of security checks at Indian airports. His conclusion: "The Indian system, endless layers instead of one clean check, is produced by a culture that is unsure of its efficiency. It doesn’t trust its people and the machines manning the posts to be thorough and instead of fixing the process, which is not possible in India, another layer is added. If one piles on enough half-competent layers, the objective might be arrived at."

Patel speculates that '4,000-5,000' of the security personnel could be freed up, if the 'silliness' was addressed. The Central Industrial Security Force, the folks who conduct the security checks at airports, however, have a partial riposte. Data analysis by the CISF says that Indian flyers carry on an average at least two pieces of hand-baggage instead of a single one. This is not counting the laptops and ladies' handbags.

Ideally, a senior official told the Hindustan Times, no more than 300 bags ought to go through an X-ray scanner every hour. "But since passengers carry more baggage, the clearance rate almost doubles. This is a grave security risk," he added.

On an average, passengers carry 1.8 cabin bags. This means instead of an average of 12 seconds per bag for a robust scan, each bag ends up being scanned for 5-7 seconds, which results in sub-optimal security.

Another official said that coupled with a shortage in staff and passenger glut-- the Indira Gandhi International Airport alone sees a 100,000 passengers daily-- this led to longer queues and clearing times for bags.

While the CISF answer is specific to handbags, it turns out that even check-in baggages of Indian passengers are a tad infamous in international airports. Last year, a Washington Post story on the journey of checked-in baggage quoted an airline official as saying that certain Air India flights aroused greater suspicion among baggage screening teams. "At JFK in New York, with Air India, virtually every bag alarms. They (passengers) bring home — bless their hearts — things for friends, families, everybody.”

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