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The big security slip-up

The big security slip-up

india Updated: Jul 16, 2006 01:58 IST

At a time when airports across the country are on heightened alert, a 21-year-old Canadian national, Gurwinder Singh Dhaliwal, coursed through “foolproof” security checks at Amritsar airport on Saturday morning and slipped in with seven kg heroin.

The youth was arrested by Directorate of Revenue Intelligence officials from Delhi only minutes before he was to board an Air India plane to Toronto.

Dhaliwal could very well have been carrying RDX, as the explosive and the narcotic drug look similar on x-ray screens.  The incident comes just days after the civil aviation ministry had ordered “100 per cent enhancement of security” at airports.

That Dhaliwal was caught had little to with the tight airport security. His arrest came about because of intelligence gathered by DRI's Delhi zonal unit in the nick of time. He had created a cavity in his suitcases to conceal the heroin and managed to dodge all security checks: customs, immigration and x-ray machines at Rajasansi airport and had reached the departure area.

“Fortunately, this man was trying to smuggle heroin. He may have been transporting plastic explosives like RDX, and we would have failed to detect this. It is time we moved from looking into air luggage for pistol and knives and invest in technology” said a senior security expert.

The incident is notable for another aspect: this is the first instance heroin being smuggled out of India to Europe. “India has become infamous as a transit point for narcotics. We knew foreigners had been smuggling heroin from Afghanistan to Europe via India, but this is a rare detection which bears this fact out,” said an official.

“While terrorists and drug traffickers are coming up with novel methods to carry narcotics and explosives, we are still stuck with outdated machines and strategies,” said an intelligence officer. Officers said it was impossible to detect drugs, plastic explosives or surgically-concealed weapons.

The CISF plans to buy sophisticated machines including body scanners, retina and fingerprint identifications for India's international airports. A team led by DG S.I.S. Ahmed spent nearly two week last month in England, studying security systems.