Anger as Indian ex-leader frisked
Tuesday, 21 July 2009
India’s parliament has been in uproar after it emerged that former president APJ Abdul Kalam was frisked before boarding a flight to the US.
Several MPs have condemned reports that Mr Kalam was made to wait, take off his shoes and undergo a body frisk by the staff of Continental Airlines.
Protocol exempts former presidents and other dignitaries from such searches.
India’s civil aviation minister has promised to “look into the matter” and “take action” against the airline.
A spokeswoman for Continental Airlines said the search was a “normal security procedure”.
Mr Kalam was president from 2002 to 2007. The incident took place in April as Mr Kalam boarded a Continental Airlines flight to the US.
But this is the first time it has been reported.
“It is an issue which puts the whole nation into shame,” senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley said in parliament.
The incident enraged other parliamentarians too.
“This is an act of ill intention and we will not tolerate it at any cost,” Janeshwar Mishra of the Samajwadi Party said.
Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel told parliament that airlines are given a list of people who are exempt from security checks at Indian airports.
“This act of frisking the former president… is absolutely unpardonable and beyond the scope of the laws of our country,” Mr Patel said.
“We will look into the matter. If the former president has been insulted, we will take action.”
But Continental Airlines maintained there was no special treatment for dignitaries.
“There is no special rule for VIPs [very important persons] and VVIPs [very very important persons]. This is the process the airline adheres to,” a spokesperson for the carrier said. [more]