India pushes for security reforms to secure airports

In the run up to an audit by the UN aviation safety watchdog International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the civil aviation ministry has decided to push the pending Aircraft Amendment Bill. It will give more powers to the aviation security regulator Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) and will make airports more secure. Sources say that poor compliance with BCAS audits is the main reason to push the bill. Aviation security is of utmost importance considering the growing terrorist threat. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has also been insisting on heightened coordination with governments and their agencies across the world for counter measures and sharing of intelligence and information.

A senior official in the ministry said that BCAS found lapses in many of its recent inspections and issued warnings to authorities of airports, individuals and airlines, but in vain. The official said, “The compliance of BCAS reports is quite poor. Airport authorities and airlines don’t really take notice of the warnings because they are well aware of BCAS’ powers. BCAS only has the power to suspend and scrap licence of airports, airlines. And, licence cannot be suspended or scrapped for every other thing therefore, warnings are issued.”

The official added this may change soon as the ministry has decided to push for amendment in the Aircraft Act, 1934, which would empower BCAS to also impose penalties. The official said that the amendments concerned are being worked out and after getting cabinet approval, the same is likely to be taken up during the winter session of Parliament in November. Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Jayant Sinha, has also taken serious note of non-compliance of its audit reports. Another senior official said, “The minister has decided to hold fortnightly meetings with airlines, airport operators and Central Industrial Security Force (CISF).”

The ICAO is coming to India in November this year. The audit will be significant because it will have consequences for the expansion plans of airlines such as Jet Airways (India) Ltd and the international launch of Vistara