The CISF is planning a major overhaul of security equipments at key ‘sensitive’ airports
Dilip Kumar Mekala
Deployed in multi-faceted roles, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) is responsible for the safety and security of important public and private establishments like airports, power plants, important government buildings etc. It also performs other tasks like VIP security and disaster management. Currently, CISF is guarding more than 300 public and private undertakings, 58 of which are airports. It also has a full-fledged fire wing under operation.
The CISF is planning to enhance the equipment for its operations at various airports and other private installations. It is considering the possibility of adding shoe scanners and liquid scanners to the existing search and screening equipment at airports that are high on terror list. “The project is currently pending with the ministry of civil aviation but we would like to have it at all the sensitive airports,” said a senior CISF officer. The CISF is currently guarding 58 airports, 18 of which are considered ‘sensitive’. It is providing security cover to 307 undertakings and fire cover to installations that includes nuclear plants, space establishments, seaports, Delhi metro, sensitive government buildings along with some private installations like Infosys Bengaluru, Reliance refinery Jamnagar etc. In the last few months, the government has increased its focus on connectivity by air, and thereby planning to make more airports functional in various Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities.
According to the Parliamentary standing committee on transport, tourism, and culture, perimeter security is weak at most airports. “At present, there is a gap of one kilometre between two watch towers. It is humanly impossible for sentries to have a clear line of sight at such a distance. Operationally, for a fool-proof security, a line of sight distance of 300 metres should be optimum distance,” said the report. It also raised concerns with the current mode of communication at watch towers. “The present walkie-talkie system is a one way system and can be jammed during any contingency.” The committee recommended that there is a need for intercoms at each watch tower along the perimeter.
The Perimeter Intrusion Detection system (PIDS) has been put on trials and expected to be operational soon at the Indira Gandhi International airport, New Delhi. The force is installing new gadgets with the help of airport operators and the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS). “We are working to deploy additional equipment with world class technology at the 18 sensitive airports of the country. We have successfully deployed 26 different kinds of gadgets like explosive baggage scanners and so on,” said a senior officer.
BCAS frames rules and regulations for civil aviation security and the CISF acts as the implementing agency for the guidelines framed by the BCAS. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) plays an important role in providing intelligence inputs related to civil aviation security. National Security Guard (NSG) under the ministry of home affairs (MHA) is also the primary contingency response force for anti-terrorist operations at airports. The Aviation Security Group of CISF is responsible for the areas of airport security including perimeter security, access control, terminal building security, apron security, surveillance, anti-hijacking pre-embarkation checks, passenger handling etc.
In the wake of security incidents like the 2014 Karachi airport attack in Pakistan, the Indian government had reviewed various security measures to take note of the security of the airports. The government of India has put all airports on heightened alert to guard against any terrorist attack on the so-called ‘sensitive’ Indian airports. The number of CISF quick reaction teams has been increased, and all security personnel have been instructed to enhance their level of alertness. Steps to tighten access control at the airports and to strengthen perimeter security have been taken by the government. Anti-hijacking units at the airports are carrying out mock exercises. It was also decided to complete security audits at all airports with a view to strengthen security at the airports.