The government has constituted a special committee to suggest ways for better securing airport cargo terminals in the country against terror threats as it has a bearing on the overall safety of adjoining passenger terminals. A senior official in the security establishment told PTI that a committee under its special secretary (internal security) has been formed by the Home Ministry. It will chalk out an anti-sabotage and counter-terror plan that can be deployed at the un-guarded air cargo terminals and enhance such systems at those which have an armed cover of central paramilitary CISF.
The committee will have representatives from the Home Ministry, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), the Intelligence Bureau and few other cargo handling agencies. At present, nine air cargo terminals at Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Nagpur, Calicut and Trivandrum have CISF protection while 28 other major such facilities are guarded by private security personnel.
“The committee will find out ways as to how these cargo facilities can be effectively guarded as huge volume of goods, of general and sensitive variety, is transacted from these avenues to country-wide and overseas locations on a daily basis. “On the table is the old proposal to allow the CISF to gradually take over security at all such terminals or to devise some new measures as the CISF has limited manpower and its security comes at a cost,” the official said.
The CISF security apparatus is a very professional and capable security instrument, he said, adding the committee will talk to all stakeholders as to how a security arrangement can be made at the remaining cargo terminals so that they are not misused by terrorist or other nefarious elements that may sneak in hazardous items. The passenger terminals also has a bearing on their security if the cargo section is vulnerable. Aviation security is a subject comprising both passenger and cargo terminals, he said.
The last CISF induction in this domain took place in 2014 and intelligence agencies assessments’ have underlined that these facilities remain vulnerable to sabotage acts due to lack of uniform security measures as large and heavy goods consignments are loaded and offloaded daily, a senior CISF officer said.
Issues like of lack of CISF manpower, cost of deployment and procedural delays have held up the deployment of a uniform security at these facilities, the paramilitary officer said. At the cargo terminal of the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport in Delhi and in Mumbai, the CISF is deployed on a ‘counter-terror deployment pattern’ as it secures both the city side and the air side (tarmac). It is mandated for access control at these terminals to check the staff, other people and goods invoice that enter and exit the facility.
“A big issue for the committee to consider is to provide modern gadgets to the CISF personnel deployed at the nine terminals so that they can ensure foolproof checks. If their cover is enlarged to other facilities, such gadgets would be required in larger numbers,” the first official said.
The CISF, which is about 1.80-lakh personnel strong, is tasked to secure 59 civil airports in the country at present. The Home Ministry has recently prepared a comprehensive note for the Union Cabinet to allow the force to take over the security at all 98 such operational airports, guarded by multiple state and central agencies at present.