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Security in Mumbai is in place but it isn’t good enough

July 12, 2007

Life seems to have changed forever in Mumbai since the 11th of July blasts in 7 local trains which killed 200 people last year.

One year has passed and on the face of it at least, the security has not let up. I had written about the intense checking at malls and multiplexes which started immediately after these blasts…well, at least in Mumbai its still on, but the intensity has reduced. Its more cursory now.

There are also policemen and women on railway platforms, a sight that was rare before the blasts. Well, I hope this scares the would-be terrorist:

But I can’t help but see the indifference on the part of the security personnel and the police…I have seen people walk into malls without being checked – construction workers carrying sacks…employees. I find this strange.

In fact if one compares the checking for bombs, guns, knives etc to checking for food and stolen goods, I see the stark contrast in the attitude of the security…the same security at the same mall….

This checking is far more stringent. As cinema theatres do not allow their patrons to take in food (they want them to buy the exorbitantly priced food on sale inside) they check all bags/purses for food. These checks for food are far more thorough than checks for bombs or guns. While checking for the latter for example, the security guard takes a quick look at you, conducts a cursory check inside your bag/purse and then nods you on…but while entering a cinema hall its a different story. At pvr cinemas in Mulund’s Nirmal Lifestyles mall for example, the security person will routinely rummage in every corner of your bag, then fix you with a rude x-ray glare and ask: Sweets, chocolate kuch hai? (Are you carrying sweets, chocolates). I am rather flummoxed at this attitude.

And oh yes, another hilarious kind of checking that goes on is when enters a department store. The picture below is taken at D-mart department store near my house. They think they have discovered a fool-proof way of preventing theft! They do not allow customers to take their bag/purse inside unless its sealed in a plastic bag! This sealing happens as you enter the store and then while you are paying, the cashier unlocks the bag so that you can retrieve your purse.


These are what I call desperate measures! As the store seems to be unable to prevent their employees chatting amongst themselves (a regular feature here) I guess they believe this is the only way to stop customers stealing! Actually the best preventive measure for shoplifting is to have alert staff. And the joke is that about 45-70 percent of thefts in stores are by the employees themselves!

Well, if security agencies are this alert when it comes to checking for bomb, knives and guns, we would breathe more easy.

(Photos copyrighted to me)

Related Reading: Do we value life in India?
Are malls safe from fire?

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. July 12, 2007 6:08 pm

    A couple of months ago i was in Mumbai. but i found the city safe. may be because i did not visit many places.

  2. July 12, 2007 9:16 pm

    Haha, that supermarket must be run by paranoid androids. I for one refuse to frequent any establishment that treats me like a felon.

    You won’t believe this: at the grand opening of Big Bazaar in Hyderabad (a few years ago), the security at the front entrance asked me to leave my leather jacket at the counter. I was stunned cold! I’m normally a very nice, soft-spoken guy but for that, I created a huge scene and ensured that a crowd formed. I was obviously asked to leave by a few rushing members of the management but I thought a department store that thinks stripping their customers of their clothing is acceptable deserved to be mocked and ridiculed.

    I sometimes wonder if I was the reason they dropped the policy. 😉

    It’s funny that you mention PVR Cinemas. I hate them with a mad vengeance. The first (and last time) I was there, it was for a screening of Rang De Basanti. I got a mighty uncomfortable full body search (far more intrusive than even airport security) and the security guard confiscated my pack of cigarettes and lighter, claiming, “Fire hazard.” I was like, “Dude, they aren’t going to just randomly burst into flames. And yeah. I have enough education and decency to honor a ‘No Smoking’ sign.” He refused to slide and said I had to toss them in a basket (that already had a few packs and matchboxes/lighters) and that I could get them later.

    My friend told me that was stupid because the way the multiplex is constructed (on the fourth floor of a mall), the exit leads directly down to the parking lot and I would have to go back up four floors to get my belongings. Ninety rupee pack of cigarettes and a Zippo® lighter – there was no way in hell I was going to toss them in a basket and hope they would still be there four hours later.

    I asked for the manager. He came out. I explained to him why I thought their theater policy sucked. He gave me a ‘the rules are the rules’ and shrugged. I promised him I would never return to a place that didn’t trust me with a lighter in my pocket. I went down to the parking lot and put it in my bike’s tool compartment.

    Do they have a right to enforce whatever dumb policy they desire: yes. Have I bothered returning there? Hell no.

    I will tell you what all Hyderabadis will confirm: Prasadz Multiplex-> Awesome screen+excellent mid-range sound+lusciously deep LFE+special stairwell for filthy smokers! 🙂

  3. July 12, 2007 9:43 pm

    Yeah, know what you mean. I don’t like PVR either. I don’t like their attitude and I don’t like the way they treat their customers. Generally, I find they are arrogant. In fact our family prefers less comfortable theatres to PVR – where the staff is polite and reasonable and friendly. And as for D-mart I used to visit there every 7-10 days, but now I go once in 6 months. I am sort of very attached to my handbag! 🙂

  4. July 12, 2007 11:14 pm

    I empathise with you and your country. When terrorists anticipate a response to or acknowledgement of their cause. I don’t think they calculate the innocent people whose lives will be completely and totally disrupted afterwards.
    On that note, I just saw the movie PARZANIA. Very sad and haunting

  5. Phantom permalink
    July 13, 2007 5:22 am

    The whole security thing is a farce. I remember when I caught a flight from pune to bangalore, and the security guard who was rummaging through my bag waas actually looking at his colleague and chattign with him while doing so. He barely searched through the surface of my bag. Now I got nothing to hide of course, and the guard gave me a sort of smile as if to indciate that he’s apologetic about the trouble he’s had to put me through, this sychophancy should have kept me happy, but i couldnt help feel that this is a horrible waste of tax rupees. Hypothetically if i WAS carrying something dodgy, this silly guard would ahve missed it out.

    Also, in India, the blue collar community STILL suffers friom an attitude of subservience. I dare say that if I walk in looking like i own the place and bullshit everyone there, order everyone around…..chances are I can get away with lots of things.

  6. Rashmi permalink
    August 10, 2008 9:52 pm

    PVR really sucks! i was scanned so rudely for food stuff in my eatables that i couldnot stop loosing my patience and had a good fight.The secuirty woman was so damm rude, she started screaming too .i went to the manager but he said rules are rules and what not.This thing happened twice.All for one small chweing gum.When i asked them why i am not allowed , they say because many time they have noticed people stick gums to seats!! But when i go inside PVR I see them selling choclates and chewing gums..This was unbeareable i have stopped going to PVR from past 2 years and also many of my friends and family too..
    One more irritating thing is of not allowing the customer to take extra bags at shoprite or dmart..When u make a bill of not less than 3000rs u are insulted by saying we dont allow extra bags.When i was told rudely i just left from the counter without paying and complaining to the manager but no use.So from next time i just stand there at counter and let them to the packing , i dont help even a bit.I let them slogg…
    Funniest thing recently seen by me was that at radlabs , one of the staff was holding a half broken parle biscuit packet at the exit!!! Someone had to deposit it while entering the cinema theatre hehe.. I didnt see anyone picking it up.But i picked up my cadbury!..What about some homepacked food for small infants or kids? Wht has to be done in their case?? this security thing is a fake display.All these people care is to mint money in any ways.
    Something should be done!

    Rashmi, I find it infuriating too. I have also had a talk at the manager at PVR because I noticed they were not checking the men! I said can’t men also carry sweets and chocolates inside their pockets? Why are you targeting women? I told them it was sexist behavior. Nowadays I have reduced going to PVR. If I go, I don’t take my purse. It is a big inconvinience, but I know it will result in an argument with the rude sales people. My last experience, they found a candy wrapper in my daughter’s purse, an empty candy wrapper and the security girl said she couldn’t take it in because someone will suspect she ate a candy! I had an argument and told my daughter that she has a right to take the wrapper inside and finally they let us in!! I think all of us should get together and complain against PVR. – Nita.

    P.S. They have a complaint form here. Do fill it up!!

  7. February 22, 2010 2:23 pm

    I agree with you on all the points. First of all, the security “show” done in malls is funny. The security guard is never serious about his “job” and just takes a glance in the bag. This attitude of “chalta hai” does us no good. And this chalta hai is approved by all the people who visit the mall.

    PVR oh great PVR ………. their food is costly then JW Marriot !!!! It looks like they want to extract the last paisa out of our purse. First you pay Rs 150 to 200 for a ticket and inside the loot starts, no options at all, a monopoly. Pepsi at Rs 80, a tub of popcorn at Rs 100 ….. I dont know if my suggestion below would make business sense or would sound funny to you, but would definitely be appreciated by a few. I suggest they should have some “economy” items, like items priced at MRP rates, for example biscuits, etc. I think if someone is sponsored by someone else to watch the movie and is hungry, what should he/she do?

    These malls and multiplexes would also start charging for Bathroom / washroom use, and you can just imagine how much it would cost? Washroom at PVR Rs 50 just for loo ……..

    Such business, where exploitation is involved cant survive in the long term. PVR or any other multiplex is not being honest with its customers. If they really want their customers to enjoy the movie, they should provide such facilities, be a facilitator …….

  8. ralphy permalink
    November 29, 2011 3:45 am

    Was flying London to Bangkok, transitting in Mumbai & they took my cigarette lighter (just a Bic disposable) off me! Having looked on IATA reglations cigarette lighters of this kind are allowed, so they are making it up as they go along!!!! Grrrrr!

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