The agency looking after Mumbai airport’s security stopped manning two crucial entry points into the airfield for more than two hours on Monday, after an alleged ego tussle with airport Customs staffers.
Although Customs officials took over the gates during this period, the scuffle slowed vehicular traffic such as catering vans, oil tankers and safety patrol jeeps entering the airport.
A Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) spokesperson confirmed the incident. “There was no impact on flight operations because traffic from these two gates was diverted to other entrances and it was the lean period of the day,” said the spokesperson.
According to the airport sources, Wednesday’s altercation started after Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) officials stopped a Customs vehicle for routine frisking.
“As per protocol, all officials were asked to step down and were frisked. It seems they felt humiliated,” said a senior CISF official requesting anonymity.
However, Customs sources said the CISF started the ruckus after two of their officials were caught patrolling the tarmac without valid licenses. “We had a tip-off that government vehicles were being used for gold smuggling. The CISF jeep was caught during this process,” said a Customs official.
Subsequently, CISF jawans manning gates 1 and 6 refused to continue their duty. “We withdrew because the Customs officials began carrying out our job,” said a CISF official requesting anonymity.
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.
PM Saleem, commissioner of Customs (airport), dismissed ego hassles with the CISF. “All vehicles, including those belonging to Customs and CISF, should be checked for security and anti-smuggling reasons,” said Saleem. SP Selvan, deputy inspector general, CISF (western region) refused to comment.