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Buried in the clutter of the news over the Pallel drug seizure, are various layers that are worth a careful scrutiny. The one most interesting is the bit about another main player being the Assistant Manager of the Imphal Unit of Indigo Airlines and whose spouse is the Manager. It is critical to look at whether the involvement of the Airline staff played a part in facilitating drug transportation through flights landing in Imphal and taking off there. The entry of various illegal drugs into the state and their transfer has on many occasions being documented as using the flight route with quite a few number of cases coming to light. In the process of drug smuggling, the use of roads necessitates more pay offs considering the existence of various state and non state actors and check points. Transporting drugs by flight on the other hand entails huge pay offs but aided by well oiled connections in the right places, mean lesser worries for traffickers. A senior staff with an airline company has just the right amount of leverage to be able to access secure zones and involve other actors and this needs to be probed. The modus operandi of drug smuggling and trafficking naturally shifts to keep pace with the social, cultural and technological norms and practices that exists. If earlier, animals were stuffed with drugs now it is air crafts that are ferrying them as cargo.
Which brings us to the next point of whether there is any value of all the show of security presence and checking at Imphal airport. The CISF personnel at Imphal airport comes across as a rather over zealous lot with their own interpretations of what can be carried and not carried by passengers to aircrafts. In other airports, there are standard written orders or notifications on what can be carried but in Imphal airport, the whims and fancies of individual security staff decides who gets away with what. To begin with, there is no metal detector frame in the security check area unlike other airports elsewhere. It depends on whether the staff doing the check wants one to take off sweaters/jackets/coats or is fine with them being worn. A few women staff go to the extent of pulling up T-shirts and tops after hearing the beep over belt clasps worn over jeans or trousers, needlessly infringing on the personal space and comfort level of women passengers when they might as well issue notifications that belts should be removed during the checking process. With no official guidelines in place and in public display, most security staff end up riding roughshod over a majority of passengers who are not aware enough to take affront to such transgressions in the name of ‘security’. The irony of course is that if the security checks are so stringent and the checking is being done efficiently, there would be lesser chances of illegal drugs being brought in or shipped out by flight. The security staff at Imphal are also notorious for overstepping on what passengers can carry and end up taking out items that can well be cleared. And because flight passengers often are loathe to inquire and follow up but also find it cumbersome to pursue what happens to their items that gets junked at the security check in area, there is a natural accumulation of various items that gets distributed among the personnel, instead of being sent to passengers.
The Security check at Imphal airport is just one factor of discomfort. Apart from a beverage counter in the departure area, there are no snacks counters in the lounge area once passengers get through the security check. If the Tourism Department and the airport authority think that the Imphal airport, which is the first point of contact for foreign tourists to the state can impress the visitors, that delusion has to be broken at the earliest. The stink of unclean toilets and lack of running water are talking points in the waiting area. It helps certainly that people of Manipur are passive when it comes to raising basic complaints. Which is why the complaints box in the airport area remains empty. If the prevailing situation in Imphal airport were to happen elsewhere, heads would roll and the public would be making a rush to register complaints.