Almost overnight, this world does not seem to be the same as before. Terror seems to loom in our backyard and we have begun to view every stranger with suspicion . With women and children now becoming distinct targets, our hearts and minds are filled with a constant feeling of fear and concern. Should we begin to celebrate each day our kids return from school or should our family rejoice at seeing us at the doorstep every evening? The bad guys seem to have resolved to hurt society in a manner bigger than ever before. No public place seems safe anymore and our government would do well to adopt the PPP (Pre-empt, Prevent & Protect) model to protect its citizen.
Our railways stations and airports carry the highest level of risk and threat. Securing our skies and all its entry/exit points should be the next big focus for our government. Harnessing technology to do so is the only way forward. Whether facial recognition systems, passenger tracking via RFID based boarding passes, big data analysis on passenger profile and full body scanners to detect explosives and contraband on passengers, would be an ecosystem of all these technologies and systems that will provide us with a safer environment on ground and in the air needs to be resolved.
Much has been said and debated about the use of full body scanning systems around the world. Some sections of society have often blown issues of privacy and radiation out of proportion.
But most developed countries have mitigated the same suitably, keeping in mind the security and interest of its own people as well as the international community. The fact remains that there is no other way to detect explosives being carried aboard an aircraft now that could be filled in silicon buttocks or breast implants or in body cavities. Such propensities should be enough for the government to seriously consider implementation of body scanning technologies in the immediate future. No amount of pat down searches and physical frisking will help in detecting or deterring such intentions. However, in exceptional cases that involve pregnant women and small children, a different form of screening may be developed as long as they succeed in declaring a passenger “clean”. The privacy issue could be tackled by ensuring that the officer viewing the scanned image does not see the passenger’s face while stepping into the scanning system.
Such technologies and systems have already been approved by TSA and implemented at several airports in USA as well as at the Heathrow airport in the UK since long besides other European and Middle Eastern airports. There remains an ugly history of such methods being used to spread terror in the past. Unless our government adopts a proactive approach and takes the initiative to implement such security systems and preventive measures at Indian airports, the dark cloud of terror will always been looming large upon the citizens of this country and international travellers.
Our aviation sector is already going through difficult times. Travellers are distressed due to changing schedules, last minute cancellations and soaring spot fares of other airlines. The last thing we would like is to witness another disaster in our skies that stirs the soul of this country and throws its national development plan into disarray.
The author is an entrepreneur with rich global exposure and distinct understanding of cutting- edge technologies. He is a leading expert on “smart city and urban planning” and an acknowledged thought leader, speaker and author.