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SANSAD TV: COMMITTEE REPORT- SAFETY AND SECURITY IN INDIA CIVIL AVIATION

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Introduction:

The Indian Civil Aviation industry has seen an exponential growth in passenger traffic over the past few years and a corresponding increase in the numbers of Airports, Aircraft and flight routes. Niti Aayog has envisaged expanding airport capacity by more than five times, to handle one billion trips a year. This unprecedented growth has increased the security needs of the civil aviation sector. Airport security is also a great concern for domestic and international travellers in the wake of threats of terrorism. It is therefore imperative for the Government to ensure the security of airport as per international standards, with zero tolerance against any loopholes.

Observations and recommendations:

  • Security manpower at airports: The Committee noted that out of 118 operational airports, only 64 airports are under Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) cover, while 54 airports have no such cover.
  • The Committee recommended that the central government should aim to bring all the operational airports under CISF security cover.
  • The Committee noted that there are 1,166 vacancies in the CISF, which is deployed at airports.
  • The Committee recommended that the full sanctioned strength of CISF should be provided at airports in the country.  The Committee also recommended the Ministry of Civil Aviation to establish dedicated institutions across the country to cater to needs for increased security manpower for the aviation sector.
  • The Committee also recommended that periodic surveys should be carried out to assess the changing threat perception at all airports in the country.  According to the results of the survey, trained security personnel should be provided at airports in a time-bound manner.
  • Bomb detection and disposal squad: The Committee observed that 44 airports (such as) still do not have the cover of Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad (BDDS), and assistance of local police is being sought for attending to such threats.
  • The Committee noted that local police may not have the technical competence to neutralise bomb threats.
  • The Committee recommended that BDDS should be engaged at the earliest at all of the remaining 44 airports to counter bomb threats, in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
  • The Committee also recommended that the BDDS should have the best international pedigree dogs that can be engaged for security at airports.
  • Screening technology: The Committee observed that  most of the airports in the country use Door Frame Metal Detectors (DFMDs) and Hand Held Metal Detectors (HHMDs) for security checks.
  • The Committee noted that the DFMD/HHMD system is obsolete, and is also intrusive of the privacy of passengers.
  • In this context, the Committee recommended the Ministry to: (i) expedite the installation of full body scanners at airports, (ii) introduce the global best practices for biometric screening of passengers (using facial recognition, fingerprint and retinal scans) at airports, and (ii) install and operationalise Radiological Detection Equipment as per the set deadline.  This would enhance the technology of frisking passengers, and lead to faster clearance of queues at check points.    
  • Specifications for equipment: The Committee noted that airport operators are obliged to procure and provide only those security equipment that meet Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) specifications.
  • The Committee recommended that the BCAS should engage proactively with airport operators for training personnel in equipment usage and maintenance.
  • The BCAS is a regulatory body under the Ministry of Civil Aviation, which is responsible for safeguarding civil aviation operations against acts of unlawful interference.
  • Training in soft skills: The Committee noted that security staff is often the first point of interaction between foreign passengers and a country’s citizens.
  • It  recommended that the Ministry of Civil Aviation, in coordination with the Ministry of Home Affairs, should ensure that CISF and other security staff at airports may be adequately sensitised in soft skills.
  • Procedure for persons with special needs: The Committee noted that Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for persons with special needs has been drafted by BCAS and it will be finalised after receipt of comments of stakeholders.
  • The Committee recommended that the SOP may be expeditiously finalised and implemented.