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Malls, cinema halls make easy targets for terrorists
Vicky Nanjappa | October 15, 2007 14:50 IST
Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil had stated last week that terrorists are likely to target popular and crowded spots.
The subsequent blasts in Ludhiana and Ajmer have proved that his observation was accurate. This raises the inevitable question - How safe are public places, especially malls, which are crowded throughout the day?
Security at malls is usually manned by security personnel from private firms. A routine check of visitors is conducted before the entry point, but this check is rudimentary at best. Moreover, the personnel from private security firms lack the expertise to check terror elements.
A closer look at the security situation of malls in the capital reveals that it would be a cakewalk to carry out a terror strike in any of them. Firstly, the vehicles entering the mall's parking space are never checked. After parking, the visitor has to enter the mall through the staircase at the back, where there are absolutely no security checks.
The malls in Delhi at present are buzzing with activity, thanks to the ongoing Navratri celebrations. A visitor to one of the malls in Eastern Delhi said that minutes after the blast at Ludhiana, announcements were made outlining the safety guidelines. However, the announcements were barely audible in the din of the music and celebrations.
In spite of Bangalore being declared a sensitive city and an easy target for terrorists, the malls in Bangalore suffer from similar security lapses.
Similarly, in cinema halls, audience members are checked at the entry point. However, a person can go out for some time and then re-enter the hall by showing his ticket. At the time of his second entry, he is not checked at all.
Though the police admit that malls are an easy target for terrorists, they do not have adequate personnel to provide security at all malls. Mall owners on the other hand claim that they have repeatedly requested the police to provide them with at least two experts to handle the situation.
However, malls in both Delhi and Bangalore have now decided to issue security warnings. Apart from regular announcements, mall owners are considering installing more check points at these malls. Compulsory checking of vehicles will be introduced with immediate effect, they say.
The police point out that the security at malls is tightened after a terror attack, but becomes lax again with time. But this may prove fatal in the future, warn the police.
Police authorities say that a check must be kept on people sporting cargo pants, jackets and carrying bulky bags. The police also advise mall owners against allowing people to carry bags inside the mall.