The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) will deploy more personnel with “working knowledge of the local language” at airports to deal with passengers.

The move follows DMK MP Kanimozhi’s complaint that a CISF officer at Chennai airport had asked her if she was Indian after coming to know that she was not conversant in Hindi.

The CISF would try to deploy as many personnel as possible who are familiar with the local language on screening, frisking and other frontline duties. Since the job involves technical and behavioural skills, it would not be possible to achieve 100% deployment on such duties, a senior CISF officer said.

When contacted, Ms. Kanimozhi told The Hindu that she had spoken to a senior CISF official in Chennai and had requested him not to take any stringent action against the woman officer in question, but to sensitise her to the seriousness of the issue.

“We take utmost care to respect the sentiments of passengers and extend due courtesy. For two decades now, we have been involved in providing internal security and [ensuring] compliance with safety protocols at airports. Be it VIPs, elected representatives or others, we deal [with] everybody with dignity while ensuring [adherence to] security norms,” Anil Pandey, DIG and Chief Public Relations Officer, CISF, told The Hindu on Tuesday.

He acknowledged the possibility of misunderstandings occurring during an interaction between individuals. “We have now taken steps to make sure that there is no such gap in communication, to the extent possible,” he said.

Airport sources said such problems could be avoided if more staff with knowledge of the local language are deployed. “There is hardly any need for any conversation between the staff and the passengers. There may be exchanges only in cases where a passenger’s belongings need to be checked and queries need to be raised in this regard. But even then, the staff would ask only basic questions. If the passenger doesn’t know Hindi, it would be easier for him/her if the staff speak English or the local language,” an official said.

Nathan S.P., an air passenger, recalled that his father, a senior citizen and a first-time flyer, had felt intimidated and lost when a CISF staff, who wanted to carry out a security check, spoke only Hindi at Chennai airport a few years ago.

The Indian Railways is also facing similar communication issues on premium trains like the Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Duronto and Tejas, where catering and housekeeping staff normally tend to be contract workers from outside south India. Following complaints, the IRCTC has had to take steps to ensure that staff with knowledge of the local language are posted to handle passenger services.

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