Sundeep Bhutoria

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ess bee

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Sunday, January 1, 2012

India stands up for a change

From a national perspective, as we step into 2012, the negatives outweigh positives – inflation, price rise, Lokpal fiasco, falling rupee, fears of an approaching recession and so on. However, amid general gloom, there is one positive factor that has surfaced which is very important for Indians and India as country – Our sense of self-respect.
I read in the papers that the two officers of the TSA (Transportation Security Administration), USA, who had frisked former President of India, A P J Abdul Kalam, at New York's JFK Airport on September 29 2011, have been removed from their jobs.
The former President of India was twice subjected to frisking. The TSA officials came on board Air India aircraft for a second round of security check after the former President had taken his seat having gone through a round of frisking at the checking counter. The TSA officials, despite protests from the Air India staff, were adamant. They refused to follow appropriate procedures and guidelines for expedited screening of dignitaries.
Foreign minister S M Krishna had then called the incident "unacceptable" and had promised to raise it with the highest levels of US government. The Ministry for External Affairs had protested against the incident through the American Embassy. The Foreign Affairs Minister for State, Mr I Ahmed, also gave a statement to this effect in the Rajya Sabha on October 3, 2011. The US, through its Embassy in New Delhi, had given a written apology to India and promised to look into the matter.
And now, after two months that promise has been followed up by some concrete action on the part of the United States. I feel that after a long time India has stood up against disrespect shown on foreign soil to one of its most illustrious sons. India seldom stands up to fight on such issues.
There are series of incidences which make us think time and again that the value of an Indian's life is much less than that of his American or European counterpart. What goes on in the name of security check in the West is something many Indian passport holders have faced. I can tell you that it is very humiliating and would hurt the sensibilities of any self respecting human being.
I am in favour of tight security, even frisking or whatever that is needed to be done within the bounds of propriety. I, however, have strong objections to the discriminatory treatment meted out to travellers by security officials on the basis of nationality and race.
TSA was created in the wake of 9/11 to strengthen the security of the nation’s transportation systems while ensuring the freedom of movement for people and commerce. Within a year, TSA assumed responsibility for security at the US airports and deployed a federal workforce to screen all commercial airline passengers and baggage.
The TSA website brags that it works closely with stakeholders in aviation, rail, transit, highway, and pipeline sectors, as well as with partners in the law enforcement and intelligence community. TSA deploys over 50,000 security personnel and approximately 2,800 `Behavior Detection Officers' at airports across United States. Ironically, this gargantuan US infrastructure failed to recognize the stature of former President of India.
From being groped to strip-searched to messages left in baggage by security staff and biased friskings etc., hundreds of complaints have piled up against the TSA in the US from its own citizens.
India's permanent representative to the UN, Hardeep Singh Puri, a Sikh, was also asked by US airport officials in Houston, Texas, to remove his turban and when he refused he was detained in a holding room for hours. This caused a lot of outrage in India and the government had to intervene.
Very recently, the outrage among Indians over the litigation in Russia to ban Bhagwad Gita was another instance when Indians really stood up and protested against the move and the matter was finally dismissed by the Russian court.
If it is a matter of self-respect and national prestige, Indians and India as a nation has to stand up as one. There are times when we must shake our locks like the mighty Samson and wrest our share of respect and honour.
ess bee

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