A bright pink taxi, belonging to a private taxi service, went past a gate manned by eight security personnel on Thursday morning and drove nearly 500 metres on the airfield of the country’s second busiest airport before it was noticed.
The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) learnt about this security breach only after an airfield safety van spotted the taxi.
The incident took place at around 10 am when 21-year-old Manisha Pawar, a driver with Priyadarshini Taxi Service, entered gate number 5 located near the international arrivals terminal after a line of catering vans. Despite heightened security in the wake of the Commonwealth Games, nobody stopped her.
After entering the gate she drove for at least 200 metres. She then turned right and was crossing the international cargo area when the patrolling van saw her.
CISF jawans allow vehicles to enter only after they have checked the driver’s permit and made an entry in their register. “We are questioning the four officials on duty. We will take disciplinary action,” said Jitender Negi, senior commandant, CISF.
CISF officers interrogated Pawar for about eight hours before handing her over to the Sahar police. “We took her to the two entrance gates to find out how she managed to get in,” a CISF officer probing the case said requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.
Pawar told police that she had taken up the job two weeks ago and was unaware of the topography of the area. “She claims she mistakenly entered the gate. She was on her way to pick up a passenger from the domestic terminal,” the CISF officer said.
The Sahar police have booked Pawar for trespassing.
The presence of an unknown vehicle on the teeming Mumbai airfield is a major safety threat because there are at least 500 vehicles, in addition to aircraft, moving around the airfield. These vehicles stick to lanes on the basis of instructions from the central control via a walkie-talkie and a vehicle straying into their path could cause an accident.