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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Lax Security at Chandigarh Railway Station

I had to catch the Kalka Shatabdi at 6:23 p.m. that evening and arrived about an hour earlier at the entrance on the side of the station facing Panchkula, since that was where I had been staying with a friend. He also accompanied me as he hoped to travel on the same train up to Ambala. Each of us carried a shoulder bag spacious enough to contain a bomb as large as any used in recent incidents of terrorist violence (or an assault rifle with a foldable butt and a few hundred rounds of live ammunition) and yet got in without any security checks, simply because the police seemed to have decided that any one with malicious intent would never come that way. So, we reached the platform unmolested.

We could very well have boarded the train without having to go through any sort of security procedure, but for the fact that my friend had to purchase a ticket. For that reason, we had to step out briefly and return through the entrance on the side facing Chandigarh and this time we did have to pass through a metal detector. However, the police man posted there appeared more interested in the newspaper he was reading than us and I suppose we could have smuggled in improvised explosive devices sans metal parts or shrapnel.

Later, as the two of us waited at the platform, a pair of sniffer dogs were brought in and traversed the entire length of the platform, even though neither came within three meters of where we stood, at any point of time. Whether the canines could still have detected explosives, had we been carrying any, remains debatable.

Once we were on board, we stacked our bags on the overhead racks provided for the purpose and since the railway police personnel who came to question passengers about ownership of various luggage items appeared well after the train had gone past Ambala, my friend could easily have left his behind, possibly with a bomb in it. On the other hand, if I had been a suicide bomber, I could have accomplished my grisly task without further ado as I was only asked to point my bag out, like every one else, before a "checked" sticker was affixed to it.

One can only hope that all loopholes in the security shall be plugged before a real terrorist chooses to take advantage of the situation.