Only 6 out of 59 airports guarded by CISF equipped to defuse bombs, audit finds

Bomb detection and disposal squads are operational at the airports in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Cochin and Hyderabad.

india Updated: Apr 09, 2018 07:05 IST
Faizan Haidar
Faizan Haidar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Airport security,Bomb defusal squad,CISF
A CISF security vehicle outside IGI airport in New Delhi.(Sanjeev Verma/HT File Photo)

Only six of the 59 airports guarded by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) are equipped to defuse and dispose of explosives, an audit by the paramilitary agency has found, raising concerns about aviation security and passenger safety.

Bomb detection and disposal squads are operational at the airports in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Cochin and Hyderabad, found the audit, conducted in January and February. Of these, only the Kolkata and Chennai airports are run by the Airports Authority of India (AAI); the remaining are private airports.

Airports require 28 pieces of equipment including explosive vapour detectors, bomb disposal suits, and remote-operated vehicles for making explosive detection and disposal squads operational, according to rules specified by the Bureau for Civil Aviation Security (BCAS). All required pieces of equipment are available only at the six airports named above.

“Even if one equipment is not available, the squad cannot be made functional. We have written to the AAI, BCAS and civil aviation ministry, asking them to provide this crucial equipment at the earliest,” said a CISF officer, requesting anonymity.

CISF, which was created in 1969, provides security to airports, seaports, power plants and sensitive government buildings, among others. The 59 airports it guards are among India’s 98 operational airports.

According to an expert in aviation security who spoke on condition of anonymity, the absence of bomb disposal squads at airports poses a potential risk to aviation security. In case a suspected explosive is found, the CISF has to summon a bomb disposal team from the nearest police station, delaying the security response.

“The report is self-explanatory and there is no doubt that BDDS is essential for airport security,” Arvind Ranjan, a former director general of the CISF, said. A copy of the report was reviewed by Hindustan Times.

Among the airports operated by private companies jointly with the AAI, Bengaluru is the only one where a bomb detection and disposal squad is not operational. According to the CISF audit report, the Bengaluru airport has procured only 24 of the 28 required pieces of equipment specified by the BCAS.

Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport is run by Bangalore International Airport Ltd, a private-public partnership in which the Karnataka State Industrial Investment Corporation and AAI have minority stakes..

“BIAL has taken cognisance of the report made by the CISF related to BDDS. While the requirement of three of the four pieces of equipment are under deliberation with the Government, the fourth item entails a long lead time and will be procured shortly,” BIAL said in response .

“BIAL is firmly committed to comply with all security regulations and has consistently provided the latest and best equipment and facilities to the security forces at the Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru. BIAL constantly engages with the CISF and other security agencies to ensure the safety and security of our passengers.”

AAI has also not procured some equipment such as explosive vapour detectors and remote-operated vehicles.

“AAI has also procured 18-21 bomb detection and disposal squad equipment for 13 AAI airports. However, detection equipment-- vapour detector--has not been procured, due to which we are unable to operationalise the squad. In 59 airports, we require 1,652 equipments but only 423 are available,” the CISF officer cited above said.

A spokesperson for AAI confirmed receiving the communication from CISF. Explosive vapour detectors will be procured by September 2018 for installation at 18 airports operated by AAI.

“In the first phase, we have provided equipment at 18 AAI airports…we have provided 12 of the 13 crucial equipment, which BCAS has described as priority one. We have procured bomb suits but the detector, which is the 13th equipment, will be made available by September 2018,” said an AAI official on condition of anonymity.

According to AAI, mini remotely operated vehicles, which are used to dispose of explosives and are part of a priorty-2 list, are also being procured for 18 airports in phase one of the procurement. In phase 2, equipment for the remaining airports will be purchased.

“For the sake of safety, you need to have complete set of equipments...if something happens to passengers, BCAS will be responsible for it since they are the one responsible for aviation security,” said Sudhakar Reddy, national president of the Air Passengers Association of India.

First Published: Apr 09, 2018 07:03 IST