Body scanners may not reach airports at least this year
Air travellers will continue to be patted down by airport security, as full body scanners may not be installed in 2022 in India due to bureaucratic hurdles.
Although the Airports Authority of India (AAI) is set to float a tender, the financial approval from the department of investment and public investment board is yet to arrive, officials said, seeking anonymity.
The authority had in 2020 issued a tender to procure 198 body scanners for 63 airports following a circular to the effect by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, but the civil aviation ministry approved of buying only 98.
“After this rejection, the issue was revisited and accordingly it was decided that 131 body scanners would be needed for the airports,” a ministry official said. “Currently, the AAI is set to send the details for the financial approval.”
Each scanner would cost around ₹4 crore, including annual maintenance, the official said.
The financial approval is expected soon, an airports authority official said. “We will be sending the request any day now, and are expecting to receive the approval soon,” he said, declining to be named.
The airports regulator wants to install the scanners by December this year, which is a challenging deadline, the ministry official said. The AAI did not respond to HT queries.
“The AAI may complete the tendering procedure and issue the letter of award to the successful bidder by this year-end,” a former AAI official said. “Body scanners are heavy items and are made only on the receipt of an order. Looking at the status, it is highly unlikely that the country’s airports will get body scanners by the end of the year.”
According to the authority’s website, it manages 137 airports, which include 24 international airports, 10 custom airports and 103 domestic airports.
Aviation security regulator BCAS had in April 2019 directed 84 sensitive airports across the country to install body scanners by March 2020, replacing existing door frame metal detectors, hand-held scanners, and pat down searches of passengers to detect metallic objects.
“Walk-through metal detectors and hand-held metal detectors cannot detect non-metallic weapons and explosives,” BCAS had said. “Body scanners detect both metallic and non-metallic items concealed on the body.”
Body scanners have been under consideration for more than a decade in India, however, concerns related to privacy, radiation, and false alarms have kept them away from being installed at the airports.
Before the pandemic, the Central Industrial Security Force had conducted several trial runs of body scanners at Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Cochin, Hyderabad, Pune, and Chennai airports, where it noted several shortcomings. The BCAS then constituted a technical sub-committee to examine, evaluate and recommend trial directives and testing protocols of the full body scanners.
The current door-frame detectors would remain for wheelchair bound passengers and those who cannot pass through the full body scanners due to medical and other reasons, a CISF official said, requesting anonymity.