The discovery of khukuris in the handbags of passengers at the ladder-point of one international airlines at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) on two occasions in less than two weeks in the recent past has raised serious questions over how healthy is the security arrangement at the country’s only international airport. The authorities concerned with airport security met and decided to deploy only well-trained staff for security checks and urged the police officers on duty to be extra vigilant. Such security arrangements should prove effective in detecting lethal goods that might jeopardise the security of the aircraft. These lapses, however isolated, indicate that the TIA, despite the technical gizmos in possession to detect weapons like khukuris in the passengers’ handbags, can do well with enhanced degree of care. Any kind of knives are a threat to the passengers. The episodes have also highlighted the need for extremely good luggage scanning equipment at airports throughout the country. Airports around the world have relied on it for their security and the TIA too have nothing to loose by inducting such equipment.

Good that the airlines in question had their own security system at the ladder-point. The question arises: what if it were another airlines without similar arrangement? This should refresh the memory of all concerned what kind of humiliation Nepal suffered following the hijacking of an Indian airliner on December 1999. Security lapses which might very well result in hijacking of planes must be avoided — at all times. The security personnel are deployed to do just that and if slips like those mentioned above occur, it sure is dereliction of duty. Units from anti-narcotic cell, anti-terrorist cell and other intelligence agencies must work closely to ensure round-the-clock vigil, making the airport security water tight. This is also particularly relevant in the aftermath of the recent labelling of Nepal as a “hot-bed” of terrorism by the US.

Undesired incidents like hijackings extract a monumental price from the country from where the plane takes off. In addition to besmirching ignominy, the diplomatic price to be paid for can sometimes be incalculable. Security slips must, therefore, be avoided in the future particularly at the TIA but no less at the domestic terminals. The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal and the TIA must once again review the airport security. Soft spots in and around the airport must be identified. A robust, iron-clad security is not a big tab to pick up in the face of any untoward incident arising out of its absence. Passengers may have to bear delays on account of it, but it is certainly worth the while.