Concerned about the ongoing tussle between security officials and Customs staff at the Mumbai airport, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) on Thursday ordered a probe into the altercation.
The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) stopped manning two crucial airfield entrance gates for more than two hours on Wednesday alleging interference and high handedness by the airport’s Customs department.
“The BCAS is probing the matter. We have also asked the CISF and the Customs to conduct internal inquiries,” a senior civil aviation ministry official told HT, requesting anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
The Mumbai airport operator also conducted an emergency meeting of officials from both departments to iron out differences. “We have decided to meet at least once a month and share information to avoid misunderstandings,” said a senior CISF official, who attended the meeting.
Sources, however, said that the departments were likely to meet again a week later to bury the hatchet.
According to sources, the scuffle on Wednesday started after CISF officials stopped a Customs vehicle for routine frisking.
Customs officials claimed that the CISF started the ruckus after two of their officials were caught patrolling the tarmac without valid licences.
According to sources, the incident had set alarm bells ringing because it took place a day before President Pranab Mukherjee's visit. “We cannot afford any bitterness between two crucial agencies during a VVIP visit,” said a senior security official requesting anonymity.
PM Saleem, commissioner of Customs, airport, said “All the matters have been sorted.”
The equation between the two departments got bitter after the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) of the Mumbai Customs and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) arrested two CISF sub-inspectors for assisting a gold smuggling assignment worth Rs3 crore on August 10.
Since then, said sources, the airport has witnessed frequent skirmishes between the two departments.
For instance, on August 14, CISF blamed a safety lapse by Customs for allowing a woman passenger from Muscat to enter the city with a satellite phone in her handbag.
The British national Rebecca Harris was arrested a day later by the CISF.