Multiplicity of agencies bodes ill for security at airports : The Tribune India

Join Whatsapp Channel

Multiplicity of agencies bodes ill for security at airports

The move to emulate the US Transport Security Administration, which is responsible for land, air and sea transport, is welcome.

Multiplicity of agencies bodes ill for security at airports

Priorities: Any attempt to cut down on the cost of deploying CISF personnel is fraught with huge risks. PTI



MP Nathanael

Former IG, CRPF

LAST month, a mentally unstable man managed to sneak through layers of the security cordon at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai before being identified as an intruder by the airline staff members who were scanning the passengers set to board the flight. He closely tailed other passengers when the automatic e-gates opened and was thus able to evade detection by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel on duty. It was by chance that nothing untoward happened, but the breach turned out to be an eye-opener for the security agencies to review and revise their apparatus in and around the airport.

Earlier, an intruder had entered the airfield by scaling the perimeter wall and reached the runway at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi a day after the 75th Republic Day celebrations. The intruder, who was found to be intoxicated, had been nabbed by the CISF and later handed over to the Delhi Police.

At the entrance to the airport, the CISF personnel check the air tickets and identity cards before allowing entry to the passengers. In normal course, it would appear impossible to sneak through the e-gates under the prying eyes of these personnel. Perhaps their dependence on the e-gates may have led to laxity in checking the tailing of a passenger by an intruder at the Mumbai airport. The boarding pass is again checked before the security check-in area. Even here, the intruder managed to dodge the security personnel to get across the e-gate by closely tagging along another passenger. Had it not been for the alert airline staff, the intruder would have entered the aircraft.

Till the mid-1970s, security at airports was not given much importance, though some semblance of security by the state police was in place. The first hijacking of an Indian Airlines aircraft, Fokker F27 Friendship, took place on January 30, 1971. Hijacked by two cousins from the outlawed National Liberation Front — later rechristened Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) — the flight from Srinagar to Jammu was flown to Lahore, where the passengers were made to deboard and the aircraft was set on fire.

Another Indian Airlines flight, bound from Srinagar to New Delhi, was hijacked by six JKLF terrorists on September 10, 1976. Though they wanted to be flown to Libya, the flight had to land in Lahore because of low fuel. Pakistani officials offered the hijackers drinks laced with intoxicants before overpowering them. The flight returned to Delhi.

Taking the matter seriously, the government appointed the Pande Committee to look into the security aspects of the aviation sector in India. The panel recommended the setting up of a security cell within the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

The Montreal-London Air India 182 Kanishka flight that exploded over the Atlantic Ocean on June 23, 1985, spurred the upgradation of the security apparatus at airports and in aircraft. The Justice Kirpal Commission, which went into the lapses, observed that multiple failures had led to the terror act. Among the reasons cited were the inept handling of the explosive-laden baggage unaccompanied by the passenger who booked it, the failure of the baggage X-ray machine and the ineffectiveness of the handheld sniffers to detect explosives.

In view of the increasing incidence of aircraft hijackings, India sent its representatives to the conference convened in Montreal for the adoption of the Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts of Violence at Airports Serving International Civil Aviation in February 1988. It has since been an active participant in the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Consequent to the submission of the Justice Kirpal Commission report, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) was set up as an independent body on April 1, 1987. Headed by an IPS officer of the rank of Director General, it is tasked with the responsibility of ensuring foolproof security at all airports by framing ‘standards and measures’ for the security of civil flights at international and domestic airports. The bureau is also responsible for the implementation of the guidelines enumerated in Annexure 17 related to the security of airports of the Chicago Convention of the ICAO.

While the BCAS ensured security at airports by deploying the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) at sensitive ones and civil police in others, the hijacking of IC-814 on December 24, 1999, prompted the government to have a dedicated wing of the CISF for the security of airports. Barring a few, like the Srinagar, Leh and Jammu airports, which were manned by the CRPF, the CISF had taken over the security of all sensitive airports by 2011. In March 2020, the CISF took over from the CRPF too. In all, 16 flights were hijacked in India between 1971 and 2023. At present, CISF personnel are deployed at 66 of the 148 airports, while the remaining have been secured by the respective state police.

The deployment of private security agencies at sensitive airports was undertaken in accordance with the National Civil Aviation Policy (2016), whose Para 15(f) states that the “Government will encourage use of private security agencies at airports for non-core security functions which will be decided in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs.” This attempt to cut down on the cost of deploying CISF personnel is fraught with huge risks. Being in the private agency’s uniform, they would not carry the authority that CISF personnel do in dealing with the passengers. Though they would be trained and tested by the CISF, their capability and confidence would be no match for the regular CISF personnel.

The multiplicity of agencies in the security set-up would lead to the evasion of responsibility, which is detrimental to overall security. The Justice Kirpal Commission had stated in its report that the multiplicity of security agencies led to laxity.

The move to emulate the Transport Security Administration of the US, whereby a unified agency is entrusted with the responsibility of securing land, air and sea transport, is a step in the right direction. But until an agency of that nature takes over, the deployment of private security agencies can be perilous.

#Mumbai


Top News

Three days before poll, top Naxalite among 29 killed in Bastar gunfight

Three days before poll, top Naxalite among 29 killed in Bastar gunfight Three days before poll, top Naxalite among 29 killed in Bastar gunfight

3 security men hurt | AK-47, Insas among arms seized | Modi ...

Ayodhya is in incomparable bliss: PM Modi in Ram Navami greetings

Ayodhya is in incomparable bliss: PM Modi in Ram Navami greetings

He said the memories of that moment continue to pulsate with...

Supreme Court junks idea of physical counting of VVPAT slips

Supreme Court junks idea of physical counting of VVPAT slips

Says not practicable | Defers hearing till tomorrow — day be...


Cities

View All