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Payment row denies security boost to IGIA

The request for additional 990 CISF personnel is yet to go through MHA as airport operator has not been paying full dues for past four years

delhi Updated: Sep 03, 2018 01:46 IST
IGI Airport,Security cover,CISF
The Delhi airport handled 63.5 million passengers in 2017 to make it to the list of the top 20 busiest airports of the world. This year, the operator expects passenger traffic to exceed 70 million(HT FILE PHOTO)

The country’s busiest and most sensitive airport — Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport — has been battling a shortage of security personnel due to an alleged payment dispute between the airport operator and the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). The Union ministry for home affairs (MHA) has not sanctioned an additional 990 personnel, who were supposed to join before the opening of Terminal 2 in October last year.

Due to the shortage, CISF officials said they have had to ask staff for extra duty hours and be judicious about leaves given to them. It has also deployed 250 personnel on temporary duty.

The Delhi airport breached the 60 million-mark and handled 63.5 million passengers in 2017, making it to the list of the top 20 busiest airports of the world. This year, the airport operator expects to go beyond the 70 million mark. The CISF has deployed over 4,600 personnel to secure the airport and had sought to add 990 in view of the rising number of passengers.  

“The MHA decides the strength of personnel for each installation secured by CISF. It is the MHA which approves the enhancement of personnel, if required. In 2016, a request for 600 additional personnel was made since T2 was to be operationalised. However, a request for 400 personnel was already pending with the ministry. Before T2 was opened, we brought 250 personnel for temporary duty hoping MHA will sanction the force. But last month, MHA said that unless the payment dispute is resolved, no additional personnel will be made available,” said a CISF officer posted at Delhi airport, requesting anonymity.

THE PAYMENT DISPUTE

According to officials, Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) owes CISF over Rs 600 crore. Since a dispute over the amount the paramilitary force should be paid was resolved, officials said the amount had been adding up. The CISF has repeatedly claimed that DIAL is only making “partial payments” to it rather than the full amount.

Over the past four years, the CISF claims DIAL paid it at least Rs 100 crore less every year for its annual security bill.

CISF, one of the seven security forces under the MHA, guards critical installations and facilities across the country including all airports and atomic power plants. The costs for its services are paid into a consolidated fund managed by the MHA, which pays CISF’s salaries. In the case of airports, the cost of security is recovered from passengers in the form of PSF.

According to people familiar with the matter, these payments were regular till September 2012. In 2016-17, DIAL collected Rs 336 crore as passenger security fee (PSF) but paid Rs 204 crore to CISF, saying the rest of the amount went towards loan interest, service tax and administrative charges.

At the moment, every departing passenger pays Rs 130 as security fee and Rs 70 as a facilitation charge, which DIAL wants to increase. Last year, DIAL said that there was a need to increase PSF.

MANPOWER SHORTAGE

According to CISF, for the past five years the sanctioned strength of staff at IGI Airport remained around 4,500 though passenger traffic has increased by 20 million. Due to the additional traffic and opening of new terminal, CISF had asked MHA to provide 990 additional personnel. As per the latest survey, CISF required about 5,600 personnel to secure Delhi airport, while currently it has 4,664 for the job.

“The security of the airport is a sovereign function and, as mandated in the Concession Agreement, is the responsibility of the Union government. Hence, we would not like to comment on this,” said a spokesperson for DIAL, the airport operator.

In March 2017, IGI Airport, which is the busiest in the country, handled an 81% increase in passengers in comparison with March 2013. However, the number of CISF personnel has remained the same during this period.

From securing the approach road, cargo terminal and passenger terminals to anti-hijack measures, the CISF is responsible for a range of duties at Delhi and many other airports.

“There are no gaps in airport security but additional staff will help in planning the deployment better. Overworked staff is not ideal for security duty,” said another CISF officer.

In the first week of July, the home secretary wrote to the ministry of civil aviation saying the MHA would have no option but to withdraw security to the airport if payment isn’t expedited. It is believed that during the same time, the MHA has conveyed that the additional security personnel will not be sanctioned till the dispute is resolved.

Civil aviation secretary RN Choubey said they are trying to resolve the matter.

Officials from the ministry of home affairs, meanwhile, declined to comment.

Rajeev Ranjan, director general of CISF, declined comment citing the sensitivity of the issue

First Published: Sep 03, 2018 01:46 IST