New Delhi: With the terror attack on Brussels' Zaventem airport bringing to the fore fresh concerns over airport security, a report by security agencies says India has not accorded specialised CISF security cover to over two dozen of its such sensitive facilities for the last five years owing to lack of funds.
A total of 27 such functional airports are being secured by other security forces like CRPF, India Reserve Battalions (IRBs) or state police units, keeping the designated aviation security force CISF out.
A report by a department related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture early this year had also expressed its concern, saying it found it "quite scary to know that the security of eight of our hyper-sensitive and 19 of our sensitive airports are not covered by the CISF which has now become the only specialised force for aviation security."
The about 1.42 lakh personnel-strong Central Industrial Security Force has a dedicated and trained unit for the task under its establishment called the Aviation Security Group (ASG) and has almost 22,000 men and women commandos in it headed by an Additional Director General-rank officer.
The force was first tasked with airport security in the year 2000, beginning with the Jaipur airport, in the aftermath of the hijack of Indian Airlines flight IC-814 and its last ASG was inducted at Diu airport in 2011.
A report recently prepared by the CISF and intelligence agencies has borrowed from the observations of the Parliamentary committee to underline the need for stepping up security at the airports.
"In the recent report...the Committee has opined civil aviation security is an integral and important element of national security. Airports are critical infrastructure and very vital from the perspective of national security. Any large-scale damage or terrorist attack on the airport would be catastrophic with far reaching grave implications for the citizens and the economy. Explanations given to the committee for non-deployment of CISF at remaining airports was lack of funds," the report, accessed by PTI, said.
The report also speaks about the status of CISF security cover given to airports till now, adding the committee has recommended that the force should be deployed on priority to hyper-sensitive and sensitive airports in the first go.
Out of the 26 hyper-sensitive airports in the country like the ones in metro cities of Mumbai and Delhi, 18 are under CISF cover while six like Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir and others are not. Under the sensitive category there are 56 airports out of which only 37 have the paramilitary's cover and amongst 16 normal airports only four have CISF security.
To sum up, out of the total 98 functional airports in the country, 59 are under CISF cover leaving out 39. Out of the 59 airports under CISF cover, 53 are operated by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and six by joint ventures or private players.
"The Committee has observed that security must be adequate and in proportion to the threat perception. Funds should not come in the way of providing security. The committee has recommended that security component of PSF needs to be enhanced to be commensurate with the security expenditure and ensure that security is not compromised and the PSF security component must be deposited in the Consolidated Fund of India," the report said.
Passenger Service Fees (PSF) is levied to meet the expenditure on airport security and passenger facilities at Indian airports.
"The committee recommends all the airports rated hyper-sensitive from security angle be given to CISF as soon as possible followed by the sensitive airports. In view of shortages of manpower and logistics available with CISF, security of normal airports can continue with state police for the time being. But these airports also be given all modern equipment, training etc," it said.