Monday, May 3, 2010

Security is a state of Mind

As I always say and believe, Security (and insecurity) is a state of mind. The recent security alert issued by the US about an impending threat at New Delhi proved to be wrong timing; within hours of such a statement, Times Square at New York was in the News for all the wrong news. An unidentified car was found at the corner, security was alerted, a bomb was found and diffused, which was later pronounced by the officials as an amateurish attempt. All said and done, it did spread some scare all across. And the US once again bore the brunt of its lax security, while always preaching nobility to others. WSJ interviewed some tourists at Times Square if they would continue their trip and the answer was obvious – Yes! Life has been very different for all of us around the world since 9/11 and 26/11 (in India at the Taj) was the scariest that we have come close to. Yet, life moves on. The Ball Room of The Taj and some parts of The Oberoi at Mumbai that were closed in Nov. 2008 were reopened a few days back although the memories of those “48 hours” still haunt us a lot. Airport security has been apparently beefed up ever since, but honestly I don’t see much difference, atleast in India. At several Indian Airports, many of the security counters are not deployed even during peak hours and the guards who are overloaded as their colleagues who are busy chewing peanuts and engaged in busier conversations, one could imagine the vigilant security of the officers in charge. Those who frisk passengers do not bend until the feet of passengers – either they have back pain or think it is below their dignity. Whichever way, laxity at its best!


Last Thursday while on a trip to Delhi, I was awaiting someone around 7pm at the busy Connaught Place near Palika Bazaar where a bomb exploded a few years ago. There were atleast 500 people moving around rapidly (there is a metro railway station underground and from here, one can reach almost all corners of the city in just a few minutes). An hour back, I had walked two prominent parts of the CP Shopping area – large cutouts and scaffoldings disrupted walkers; I was told that this was an attempt by Delhi Municipal Corporation (MCD) to beautify the CP Blocks ahead of the Commonwealth Games later this year to impress the visitors and the world. A few hundreds of workers are sweating it out day and night to finish the civil and paining works in time. Amidst all the chaos, people were on the move – to pursue their routine work. I went to a nearby dustbin to stash my water bottle and suddenly, i could sense a panic – what if? What if there was something in this bin like it’s been always! It took me less than 30 seconds to come back to normalcy. And life moved on. It was the same at the newest Mantri Mall in Bangalore where I was on Saturday evening on a routine Retail study. And the scene was the same. A few thousand shoppers criss-crossing the busy Malleshwaram area and the Mall, unaware of the security alert issued by the US...
So, would such security alerts deter shoppers? What should the Shopping Centres, Malls and Retailers do to counter such situations? The least one can do is to maintain vigil. What’s required today is to be aware of what’s happening around. This could have averted an incident such as the one that happened at The German Bakery in Pune. Malls and Retailers today have deployed security staff at their entrance – to frisk and check visitors, but this is again a joke. No one really knows what these detectors can find. However, this is atleast a beginning. With summer holidays already in place and shopping & recreation coupled with vacations being planned, I sincerely doubt if these “alerts” would really hold us back. After all, Insecurity is a state of mind and one has to conquer it from within.

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