The elaborate glass and metal knit work on an Indian woman’s sari and a reluctance to remove to the mangalsutra has put an American full-body scanner on the blink during trials at the Capital’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA).
It has to be seen how a German machine behaves, which is next in for a test.
The security agency manning the airport has complained that the machine installed in December can’t scan through the layers and folds of a woman’s sari — a length of cloth draped delicately around the body.
Also, many fliers, for emotional and deep-seated reasons, refuse to remove their mangalsutra, a traditional necklace worn by Hindu married women, before going for scans.
The trials were by and large successful, other than a few issues flagged by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) that guards India’s civilian airports.
“The scanner scans a person from the neck down. We have asked the manufacturer for a full-body scan,” said a CISF official, who didn’t wish to be named.
“Also, one needs to remove all metal objects from the body before the scan. Men remove their belts and wallets, but women refused to remove the mangalsutra and put it on a tray. Once the scan is made mandatory, it will be a tough task to convince women passengers,” the official said.
The scanner gave out a false alarm, an unanticipated hitch, whenever a woman wearing a sari passes through it.
“The sari has several layers, which is not the case for jeans or other clothes. Many women wear saris with metal and glass work, prompting the scanner to beep repeatedly. But repeat scans reveal nothing suspicious,” the official said.
The machine failed to notice a pen, a wallet and a handkerchief in 10,000 scans conducted over a month. Among the passengers scanned at the trials, 30% were women.
The glitches apart, officials were gaga over the equipment’s success rate, saying it has been fine-tuned in accordance with Indian standards.
“Another body scanner has arrived and will be put on trial next week. We are testing two different technologies and whichever is better, will be used,” the CISF official said.
Once the trial run is complete, the Bureau for Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) will frame rules to make a full-body scan mandatory.
The BCAS has asked the manufacturers to configure the machines in way that the images don’t reveal body parts after objections were raised by passengers over X-ray images that scanners produce at airports across the world. Sources said the scanner tested in New Delhi produces mannequin-like images.
During trials, fliers are requested to go through the scanner after collecting their boarding passes. But they are required to go through normal security check even after the scan.