KATHMANDU, Aug 9: At a time when Nepal's only international airport has been criticized for various security lapses, several cases have surfaced at TIA (Tribhuvan International Airport) indicating negligence despite repeated government warnings.
Referring to various problems witnessed at TIA, the Ministry of Home Affairs and other high authorities have alerted the security deployed there and reshuffled strategies to improve the situation.
On July 10, 2016, an Indian passenger identified as Shiva Shanker Singh was found with five unused bullets in different parts of his luggage while trying to board a Buddha Air flight to Pokhara.
Singh, who was identified as being originally from Mohaddipur in Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh state, was released even before the inquiry procedures were carried out, sources said adding, “We were surprised to see the Indian released within a few minutes of the bullets being seized from his possession.”
DIG Govinda Niraula, chief of TIA security, said, “The Indian was released soon after on realising that he was in possession of the bullets by mistake.” The DIG added that police interrogating him assessed that there was no threat from the man.
But the Ministry of Home Affairs said the police were wrong to release the man without fulfilling the investigation procedures. “It's illegal to carry any arms and ammunition on board a plane and such negligence in security is shocking,” said Home Ministry spokesperson Yadav Koirala.
In another case, a foreign national in possession of a tiger tooth was released by TIA security after seizing the contraband but without initiating any legal formalities.
On March 9, a Malaysian carrying a tiger tooth was detained while boarding a flight but released soon after being ordered to do so by higher TIA authorities.
DIG Niraula said, “Sometimes we have to make decisions out of practical considerations and release the suspects even if something illegal is seized from their possession.”
According to the CITES Convention (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), to which Nepal is a signatory, illegal possession, purchase and sale of such items is illegal. The Home Ministry official said that seized contraband should first be sent to the authorities concerned for further investigations and the suspect kept under custody until proved innocent.
TIA officials also claimed that these two cases were not brought to the notice of Nepal Police and surfaced later only after some airport authorities reported to Police Headquarters.
Every day TIA sees a flow of some 60,000 people including passengers, security personnel, airline crews, civil aviation authority staff, hotel staff, bank staff, cleaners, visitors and relatives of passengers. TIA handles 3.5 million passengers a year. There are reports of people being arrested for trying to smuggle items such as gold, fake currency, drugs and wildlife body parts through TIA.