I carried ‘explosive material’ on bus undetected (Second of a series on how safe is the Indian capital)

December 7th, 2008 - 1:07 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 7 (IANS) It was so easy. I boarded a tourist bus to Jaipur - without a ticket - and placed my bag on the overhead deck. Inside were two tiffin boxes wrapped in paper, with ‘explosive material’ written on them. No security checks were done, and no questions asked. Thankfully, this was just a reality check on the security arrangements in the capital.But let’s start from the beginning.

I had gone to Bikaner House in the capital, from where over 30 luxury buses go to popular destinations like Jaipur and Ajmer.

I learnt that you need to pay Rs.2 to put your luggage in the bus boot. I assumed that the bags would be checked beforehand.

I saw the conductor asking passengers for their seat number, which he wrote on the bag with a white chalk.

“You give me the bag. How many bags do you have - two - give me four rupees,” a conductor said, before putting the bags inside a Volvo bus that was to leave at 8.30 a.m. for Jaipur.

Asked about the security check, the conductor, who refused to reveal his name, replied: “We have been running buses for so many years. There is no problem. Our passengers are good people.”

Two security men sitting near the main entrance of Bikaner House did not search my bag, or that of others, leave alone frisking passengers or asking questions.

To know more about the security inside the Jaipur-bound bus, I boarded the bus without a ticket and occupied an unreserved seat and kept my handbag on the overhead deck.

The bag had two tiffin boxes wrapped in paper and over it was written ‘explosive material’.

To my utter surprise, no one checked the handbag nor did anyone come to ask for my ticket for almost half an hour. I later got off at Dhaula Kuan with my handbag.

These tourist buses, after leaving Bikaner House, near the India Gate circle, stop at two other designated places - Dhaula Kuan and IFCO Chowk in Gurgaon. The nearly six-hour journey to Jaipur has a stop in between at a Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC) outlet in Behror, a nearly three-hour drive from Delhi.

The situation is the same for passengers travelling to destinations like Shimla, Kullu, Manali and Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh. Several buses ply to these destinations from Himachal Bhavan, near the upmarket Connaught Place.

Every luxury bus has a seating capacity of nearly 50.

At Himachal Bhavan, authorities don’t even ask the names of passengers before handing over tickets. “There is no need of any identity card or name of the passenger,” Kuldeep, a ticketing officer, told me.

“Terrorism is in Mumbai, Bihar, Bangalore, but our state is very peaceful,” he said.

“We are going to Shimla Sunday evening but seeing the current security situation, we are really scared,” Sanjiv Kumar, a student, said.

“We have had so many terror attacks this year, but the security is really poor in these inter-state buses. Are they waiting for something to happen on these buses?” Kumar asked.

Asked about the security arrangements, G.N. Bhatt, joint director at the Rajasthan Information Centre, told IANS: “Don’t worry. There is no security problem. We have people to check bags.”

Somehow, the assurance was not very comforting.

(Prashant Nanda can be contacted at Prashant.n@ians.in)

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