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Abdul Kalam asked to remove shoes at Airport

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 Leave a Comment

In what is clearly a breach of protocol and an insult, former president APJ Abdul Kalam was frisked and also asked to remove his shoes for checks by an international airline at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport recently.

The former President has verified that the incident occured, indeed. He refused to comment on the issue.

The Civil Aviation Ministry has ordered a probe into the incident involving the ground security staff of Continental Airlines which subjected Kalam to security check before he was to board a Newark-bound flight on April 24.

Prior to boarding the flight at the IGI airport, the former head of state was asked by the airline staff to take off his shoes during frisking and his belongings were scanned through an X-ray machine.

As per sources close to Kalam, he did not take up the issue with the government. "It is the airline policy to check everyone. They never listen to any Indian agency," they said.

The former president also had to "surrender" before the staff for a complete body check, the sources claimed.

But Kalam was "very cooperative" and "he happily underwent the entire process".
This is a clear breach of protocol because as a former president, Kalam is exempted from frisking and all other security checks.

The Directorate General of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which is responsible for security at the country’s airports, denied the security checks were conducted by them.

DIG CISF (Airport Security) Udyan Banerjee said the first level of security check, which is conducted by the force, was waived but a second level of checking is done by the airlines.
However, Continental defended its action saying that, as a policy, each of their passengers, including VIPs, are frisked across the world.

The airline’s spokesperson told a TV news channel that the former president happily went through all security checks.

The incident has created uproar in the Parliament, with the MPs cutting across party lines demanding strict action against the erring airline.

In Rajya Sabha, the entire House, including Deputy Chairman K Rahman Khan, expressed anguish over the "humiliation" meted out to the Bharat Ratna, whom they described as the tallest figure and a national hero.

In his response to the Rajya Sabha, Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel also termed the frisking of Kalam as an ‘unpardonable act’.

"Not only the preliminary inquiry has been ordered but we also have a preliminary report on the basis of which the Continental Airlines has been issued a show cause notice why action for wilful violation should not be taken," Patel said. .

This is not for the first time an Indian VIP has been frisked at an airport. Last year, the then External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee was frisked at Moscow airport. In 2003, the then Defence Minister George Fernandes was also made to undergo security screening in the US.