Thousands of fatigued security personnel at Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport’s T3 are coping with exhausting 15-to-18-hour workdays due to a recent order that forbids resting or even sitting down while on duty.
Paramilitary personnel in charge of T3’s security can be suspended if found flouting verbal instructions against being seen ‘sitting around’. Ministry of home affairs (MHA) estimates around 4,500 Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel are posted at T3.
Even seating arrangements near the CISF control room at T3 have been removed to ensure absolute compliance after a senior CISF official paid a surprise visit to T3 in the first week of June. Finding some personnel idling, he ‘decided to do something about it’.
"Almost immediately, orders were issued that no CISF personnel was allowed to sit – and certainly not rest – while deployed on security duty at T3,” said an official.
Personnel reporting to duty at 8am must start their day at 5am and spend the next two to three hours undergoing a pre-deployment drill. They, then, queue up at the armoury to be issued a weapon that usually weights between 10 and 12 kilograms, before getting ready to report for duty.
"We follow the same drill at the end of the day," said a CISF official. "That means around 18 hours without a rest; it’s just inhuman."
While the CISF maintains that the orders are in compliance with the gruelling nature of the job, MHA sources were more sympathetic to the men who end up being on their toes — quite literally — from early morning to late evening every day.
“Within the ministry, there is a view that CISF personnel will be rendered utterly physically exhausted at the end of each day and useless due to sheer fatigue in the event of a terror attack,” said an official.
But the CISF defended its stand. “We believe personnel entrusted with the job of patrolling and guarding such an important facility must not only be on their feet but be seen to be on their feet and ready for any eventuality,” said a senior CISF official. “A day of active duty was also followed by a rest day,” he added.