New Delhi: Facing threat of terror attacks, the Home Ministry has ordered security audit of nearly 100 civil airports and decided to bring all such facilities under CISF cover gradually.
It has also planned random checking of incoming air travellers at the entrance of airports. Standard Operating Procedures (SoP) for random checking of incoming vehicles of air travellers in city side approach, thorough checking of cargo and detection of flying objects and drones are also being drawn.
A Civil Aviation Ministry's proposal to raise a separate force for aviation security has been turned down and all airports will be brought under the security cover of the Central Industrial Security Force gradually, official sources said.
The decisions were taken at a high-level meeting attended by Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and top officials of Ministries of Home and Civil Aviation here on 5 August.
The move came after the terror attack on Brussels' Zaventem airport where terrorists blew explosives inside the airport terminal, much before the 'security hold' area, where passengers and luggage are checked.
"We are going to completely overhaul the security apparatus of all airports. A dedicated plan is being worked out. Security audit of all airports have been ordered and based on the report, their security will be upgraded," Rijiju told reporters.
The meeting decided that 98 civil airports in the country will be be brought under the security cover of the CISF, the specialised force for airport security. Out of the total 98 functional airports in the country, 59 are under CISF cover, leaving out 39.
Among 98 airports, 26 airports, including Delhi and Mumbai, are considered hyper-sensitive. Of these hyper-sensitive airports, 18 are under CISF cover while six like Srinagar and Imphal, are being guarded by CRPF, the state police or by other paramilitary forces.
Under the sensitive category, there are 56 airports out of which only 37 have CISF cover and amongst 16 other airports, only four have CISF security. The report of the security audit being conducted by a team of experts from Ministry of Home Affairs, Intelligence Bureau, CISF and Bureau of Civil Aviation Security will be submitted within 20 days.
The proposal to raise an Aviation Security Force, on the lines of Railway Protection Force, was rejected as security is the domain of the Home Ministry and the Civil Aviation Ministry or the BCAS do not have the necessary expertise in it.
NSA Doval doubted the competence of BCAS in raising such a force saying the MHA has competence, expertise and experience. There was also a suggestion that airport security be funded by the MHA to reduce the burden on airport operators, who pass on the cost to passengers.
MoS Civil Aviation Sinha suggested the meeting to focus on 4-5 "low hanging fruits" like fool-proof security at the terminals and in the periphery through doable steps.
Calling for a realistic assessment of all airports, NSA Doval said each vulnerable facility needed to be identified and the gaps in security apparatus plugged. Director General of CISF Surender Singh expressed apprehension of "direct bold attack" from city side approach as well as assaults in cargo areas. He suggested frequent and effective patrolling by security and law enforcement agencies to thwart such attempts.
Singh said since cargo areas were vulnerable to terror attacks, high-tech luggage checking machines should be installed there. He also recommended presence of armoured vehicles at airports. The meeting felt that there was a need for both short-term and long-term steps to reduce vulnerability of airports of high value.
The meeting also discussed the threat emanating from high rise buildings located on the periphery of the airports and suggested that the Union Home Secretary should consult each state about the local police providing peripheral security.
Secretary, Civil Aviation, Rajiv Nayan Choubey suggested behaviour monitoring mechanism and profiling of travellers at the airports. The meeting decided that SoPs for detection of drones and other flying objects will be circulated to all airports for proper implementation.