Security glitches dog international airport

S. Anil Radhakrishnan

Thiruvananthapuram: No effective supervision and reluctance of airlines to abide by the security guidelines of the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) are posing a risk at the international airport here.

The recovery of five cartridges from the bag of Communist Party of India (Marxist) State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel at Chennai airport on Friday has exposed the security breaches at the premier airport of the State. Mr. Vijayan had boarded a Paramount Airways flight from Thiruvananthapuram to Chennai, to proceed to Delhi.

This is the fourth incident of security lapse during the past 47 days at the airport, listed as hypersensitive from the viewpoint of threat perception. CISF Commandant H.K. Dutta told The Hindu that the images of x-ray screening of the hand-baggage during the time Mr. Vijayan had checked in had revealed "nothing unusual."

The CISF high-ups had been informed about the facts, and it was for the BCAS to inquire into the incident. Screening of the registered baggage was done by the airline security staff.

Earlier this month, the CISF recovered cartridges from the baggage of a Delhi police constable who checked in to proceed to New Delhi. Sources in the CISF said the matter was referred to the high-ups and the constable's identity checked. A complaint was lodged with the local police station.

A "sharp metal object" was found in the overhead-luggage compartment of the Emirates Thiruvananthapuram-Dubai flight on early January 15. All the passengers were disembarked and subjected to security check.

Air India (AI) sources said it were the security personnel of the national carrier who carried out the security work for Emirates, Gulf Air, Kuwait Airways and Silk Air in Thiruvananthapuram. "The security personnel of AI are assigned the job of guarding the aircraft and screening the baggage only," he said.

"The mandatory check of the aircraft as directed by the BCAS after the passengers disembarked here was not done by the AI security personnel for the flights of Emirates. The sharp metal object recovered from the aircraft was a knife and it was not handed over to the airport authorities or to the CISF and was taken by the airline to Dubai," the sources said.

It is also learnt that almost all airlines permit outsourced staff and temporary and casual workers on board the aircraft violating the BCAS guidelines.

In another incident, a pistol was recovered from the toilet of the domestic terminal on January 24. It was left behind by a CISF officer on duty. The CISF had conducted an inquiry into the incident.

A senior airport official said the BCAS had reviewed the security arrangements in the airport recently and would "recommend steps to strengthen security, if there is any loophole."