The country’s airports are vulnerable to security threats and are not equipped enough to face and thwart attacks of the kind that happened at the airports in Istanbul and Brussels recently. This is the view of experts who feel that although security officials have maintained that security at major airports in the country has been increased, it is quite easy for any person having a valid ticket and an identification card to carry out virtually anything inside an airport terminal, at least until the check-in counters.
“Security arrangements at Indian airports need an overhaul, keeping in mind the recent terrorist attacks the world is witnessing,” said Jitendra Bhargava, former director of Air India and a commentator on civil aviation security.
Bhargava said that in view of the emergence of suicide bombers, the earlier “security principle” that a person in possession of his/her bag would not carry explosives or objectionable material in the bag or on their body as they would not want to blow themselves up, has become redundant as was seen in case of the suicide attack in Istanbul. Thus, the checks and intelligence inputs need to be more efficient and updated, he said. “Security officials should start checks before the entry into the terminal building and airports have to be structured and constructed in a manner that checks and monitoring are conveniently carried out,” Bhargava added.
Harsh Vardhan, civil aviation expert and chairman of Starair Consulting, said: “The security environment in the country is very precarious and India has a sensitive and hostile environment keeping in mind its hostile neighbours. India has been a victim of terrorism even before the world started experiencing it,” said
Ajay Prakash, a civil aviation expert, told The Sunday Guardian: “Indian airports have always been susceptible to security threats. Considering the security environment in the country, if need be, we should adopt training and technological facilities from Israel which has one of the best and stringent security apparatuses in the world.”
Experts also raised concerns over the issuance of passes to airport employees and suggested that they should be thoroughly screened before passes were issued to them and this should be made mandatory as they were the first point of contact from the security angle.
The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), the force in charge of security at major airports, however, feels that sufficient multi-layered security arrangements have been put in place to check any untoward incidents. “We have put in place an intensified surveillance system at strategic locations. We also have a quick reaction team, bomb disposal squad and a sniffer dog squad at standby at all times. Occasionally, mock drills are also conducted along with all stakeholders and CISF personnel are adequately trained to handle any situation as far as security is concerned,” Hemendra Singh, CISF spokesman told The Sunday Guardian.
Kumar Rajesh Chandra, director-general of Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), which is responsible for security policy formulation for airports, refused to speak on the matter and just said: “I am not authorised to talk to the media.”
However, experts believe that a specialised cadre dedicated to airport security with state-of-the-art technology for terror mitigation and intelligence and shorter duty hours for security forces are needed to ensure better security at airports.
Bhargava said: “The political class also needs to be more committed to improving security. The highest post in the BCAS had remained vacant for almost three years only to be filled recently. Such attitude of the people at the helm should change.”