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. 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.