Tell us about new initiatives of CISF to strengthen the security system.
As security is an extremely important concern of the country, we keep taking several crucial initiatives on regular intervals to strengthen our security system. The most important move that I would like to share with you is the decision to do away with hand baggage stamping system at airports as the process was time-taking and led to serpentine queues at airports. The decision was made around 5-6 months back, which was appreciated by all air travelers including global flyers.
We removed the baggage stamping system at more than half airports across India (ie around 30 airports). This was a big step and we were the first to take it and bring the security check process at par with airports around the world.
Since maintaining security at airports is of utmost importance, any laxity could lead to huge loss. We also increased the number of CCTVs and brought every dark area under the CCTV surveillance prior to doing away with the stamping practice. More CCTV cameras with the latest technology were installed at airports and even in Metro stations. Besides CCTV camera installation, we also made some structural changes in our output by extending the output roller of X-ray machine and put in acrylic sheet for the better convenience of passengers.
Similarly, at Hyderabad airport, Expressway checking facility for passengers travelling with hand baggage only, (which amount to about 40 per cent of total flyers) has been introduced. Now the passengers travelling with hand baggage only are not required to go into the check-in areas. They can now directly go to the boarding gate after ticket verification work through bio-metric, e-ticketing, X-ray scanning, and frisking. It has reduced passenger's congestion in the check-in area inside the terminal building up to 40 per cent at Hyderabad airport. This is a major achievement.
We are also exploring the possibilities to make this initiative operational in Terminal-2 that would help in reducing the passenger congestion in the check-in area of the terminal. The proposed move would be only for hand baggage passengers and not for all air travelers.
What steps have been taken to make air travelling more passenger-friendly?
Our services at the airport are customised as per the traveler's requirements and this has been appreciated by passengers.
In a recently conducted passenger survey, it has come to notice that more than 95 per cent passengers have rated our services as very good or excellent and the reason for improved services is ease of flying.
It is as like 'ease of doing' business, which means making certain changes to make flying for passengers easier and more convenient. Right from the time a passenger enters the terminal to the time of boarding the plane the passenger must feel comfortable and secure.
We have started preparing the passengers for a safe and secure flight so that waiting time is reduced. We tell them about dos and don'ts, inform about restricted items and procedures to be followed at security hold area. We have also trained our personnel in personality profiling to make the observation process very sharp and less time-consuming.
Even at domestic terminals, we have trained our personnel in such a way that they observe passengers very sharply and in a professional manner. The objective behind this move is to fasten the ticket checking process.
You have headed NDRF and now CISF. What challenges do you face as DG of CISF?
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has a huge humanitarian angle. The organisation is about preparing people to respond at the time of any disaster. During all the major natural calamities such as Jammu & Kashmir flood, Nepal earthquake, Chennai flood, the NDRF actively responded and our forces worked very well.
It was a great challenge for me as I always led the force from the front and went to all these places. The rescue operation in Nepal was very fast as we reached the spot in just 5 hours and successfully rescued 7 live victims of the earthquake in the first night. In Nepal, 76 teams from 34 countries were involved in the rescue operation and NDRF's 16 teams saved 11 earthquake victims, which were globally recognised.
CISF is about industrial and aviation security which has been mandated to protect vital installations, critical infrastructure, airports, seaports, atomic energy, space organisation, etc. The force specialises in handling the security of these organisations and their criticalities. At present we are securing about 340 units including 59 airports. Apart from these, securing Delhi Metro is also another major responsibility as it has a daily ridership of about 30 lakh passengers and our personnel handle it very smoothly, which is a huge achievement.
We are also securing public sector undertakings such as ONGC & NTPC. As these PSUs have their own set of requirements, we are handling security issues of all such organisations. We have also started providing securities to private institutions such as Reliance, Infosys, Baba Ramdev's Patanjali food park and earning some revenues from it. CISF has a dedicated wing for VIP security duties known as 'Special Security Group (SSG)', which provides proximate protection to the 77 central protectees in 14 States/UTs.
What latest innovations are you bringing in to control the increasing rush in Delhi Metro?
We have brought many innovative changes to make travelling easier in the Metro trains. To reduce eve-teasing, women commandos travel in women compartments. They also move in plain clothes to keep a tab on miscreants. It's the result of improved security arrangements that cases of eve-teasing and pick-pocketing have reduced recently.
How do you plan to tackle anti-social elements - and terrorism in particular?
We have a contingency plan to handle such cases. We practice mock drills on regular intervals and always keep training our personnel to deal with such circumstances. We also conduct mock drills in association with State's Special Forces to further strengthen the counter-terrorism apparatus across our all sensitive deployments at airports, metro stations, and critical units.
After the gruesome incident of murder in Ryan International School, several schools approached CISF for security audit. What are your plans to help schools in preparing a professional security blueprint for them?
We have written a letter to all prominent schools public and private to provide consultancy which has been mandated by the government. Consultancy would be a gateway to audit security and safety system of schools. As per the proposed plan, the security auditing means imparting training to school management, security managing authorities about different ways to improve the security of children in schools, provide a safe environment to teaching and non-teaching staff, etc.
We have got very positive response from schools as we have got several requests from across the country for safety and security audit of schools. Teams would soon be sent to conduct security audit of schools and no team would be deployed in any school as it would be only a consultancy service. During the consultancy process, we would advise schools about the placement of security and safety equipment, including CCTV cameras and how to analyse the CCTV data obtained.
How do you intend to modernise CISF?
Even though our organisation is a modernised one, we are doing lots of research and development to make it more advanced and equipped with latest technologies. Gadgets installed at airports, seaports, etc. are the latest. Making security more robust, we are doing a trial run of body scanners, shoe scanners, and bio-metrics at even PSUs. We are also exploring security aspects on coal areas to control illegal mining. We are brainstorming about the introduction of new technologies in coal areas. We are also working on video analytics and data mining in a more comprehensive and exhaustive way.
What are the major challenges?
The major challenge that we face is the cost of the technology as technologies are very costly. Other challenges are expertise in technology, how to train our personnel to handle advanced technologies, and how to procure these technologies which take lots of time.
(Dhirendra Kumar is Special Correspondent with Millennium Post)