Police suggest plans to tackle airborne threats to shrine, ask residents to inform them about guests or tenants

Kerala police have mooted the urgent establishment of a no-fly zone over Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple to render the landmark shrine and its hoard of antique treasures stored in ancient subterranean vaults “impregnable” to airborne threats.

Officials say the police have recommended that flying of kites be prohibited in the proposed no-fly zone to prevent any attempt at ‘kite aerial photography,’ a relatively new technique of taking above the ground pictures using remote-controlled cameras rigged to the kites.

The police have based their proposal, which in the face of it seems more than necessary, on the ‘possibility’ that non-State actors could use ‘jury-rigged’ kites for covert surveillance of the area or, in a worst case security scenario, attempt an airborne sabotage operation on the temple’s structure.

Alert to pilots

Once the proposal comes through, possibly after discussions with and the concurrence of the Indian Air Force and civil aviation authorities, a special zone name will be accorded for the temple area and it will be notified on aeronautical charts so that pilots would know and identify in advance the area over which they are not allowed to fly.

An informal arrangement to this end is reported to be existing already on police insistence.

Officials say a similar no-fly zone exists over the Tirumala Venkateswara temple in Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh. The Taj Mahal in Agra, the Tower of Silence in Mumbai, and Parliament House are also covered by similar zones along with refineries, nuclear installations and other strategically important assets.

Eviction plan

On the ground, the State police have requested the government to evacuate, at the earliest, temple property currently occupied by or in the control of persons who are not original residents (an estimated 300 families) of the densely built-up locality.

The ‘eviction list’ includes premises adjoining the temple and in the control of political parties, individuals, businesses and organisations. Many of these buildings have doors and narrow pathways, which give the occupants, if required, direct access to the temple. Such alleyways are beyond the scope of police surveillance and the unrestricted access is a threat to temple security.

The police have requested that some of these buildings be handed over to garrison policemen and commando units charged with the protection of the temple and to house their armouries.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s directive to up the temple’s security, the police have asked residents to notify their local station about guests and tenants, if any.

No digging activity shall be conducted in the area without informing the police. The KSEB should conduct a security audit of the locality’s power transmission network.

More In: Kerala | National