Government today deliberated the possibility of sharing of a portion of security expenses in airports by travellers with the Civil Aviation Ministry opposing the move backed by the Home Ministry.
A high-level meeting, chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, discussed the issue but no decision has been taken on it, sources privy to the deliberations said.
The Civil Aviation Ministry, led by Minister Ashok Gajapati Raju and his junior Jayant Sinha, argued in the nearly two-hour long meeting that security in airports is a “sovereign function”. Hence, responsibility falls on the government and all expenses should be borne by it.
The Home Ministry, led by Rajnath Singh and his junior Kiren Rijiju, agreed with the Civil Aviation Ministry’s argument but suggested that a portion of the security expenses should be taken care of by the airport operators, which normally pass on such expenses to travellers.
“However, no decision has been taken on the issue and further deliberations will take place in near future,” the source said.
The issue of security audit of nearly 100 civil airports, in the wake of growing threat of terror attacks, was also discussed and it was proposed that all such facilities should be brought under the cover of Central Industrial Security Force 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 already been turned down and all airports will be brought under the security cover of the CISF gradually, the sources said.
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.
The meeting discussed the move to bring 98 civil airports in the country 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 was also discussed in the meeting.
Calling for a realistic assessment of all airports, security experts said each vulnerable facility needed to be identified and the gaps in security apparatus plugged.
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.
The meeting decided that SoPs for detection of drones and other flying objects will be circulated to all airports for proper implementation.