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Guard airplane and airport

Guard airplane and airport
The daring terror attack on Pakistan’s Kamra air base on 16 Aug this year claimed by an organisation called Tehreek-e-Taliban,and persistent intelligence reports that Pakistan-based militant groups keep planning terror attacks on India’s civilian airports, should be enough to raise all kinds of alarms in India.

The attack in Pakistan should be a serious reminder about the fact that terrorist groups such as the Tehreek-e-Talibanand Lashkar-e-Taiba [LeT] have openly and repeatedly announced that they would like to destroy India’s emerging economy through terror strikes, and Pakistan has no visible plans, or possibly, even the will, to stop them.

If such elements can breach Pakistan’s air base security, Indian civilian airports become all the more vulnerable. In fact, there have been intelligence reports of potential terrorist strikes in India recently that could even take place at airports. It is a fact that Indian airports are extremely vulnerable to terrorist attacks. many airports are not properly guarded with the result that it is extremely easy to breach the security. 

Experts say it is high time the Indian government redoubles its efforts to bring security at its airports up to international standards, or maybe even better than the international standards in view of the continuous threat it faces from the Pakistan-based militant group LeT, a group that has openly vowed to destroy India.

The Airports Authority of India did its part on Oct 18, 2007, when it introduced a new ground handling policy, under which any agency operating at airports would have to have 100 per cent full-time employees, with their background antecedents fully checked by the relevant security agencies. This is the least that the AAI should have done.

Officials say that in view of the haphazard standards followed by the different ground handlers at different airports of India, the ground handling policy is also aimed at limiting the numbers of ground handling entities that can carry out such operations at airports.

According to a government notification, under the policy, only three ground handlers would be allowed to perform this function at the six metro airports of the country. These would be AAI or its joint venture company, subsidiary companies of the national carrier and any other independent ground handling company selected through a competitive bidding process subject to its security clearance.

The non-metro airports have been allowed self-handling by the domestic airlines provided they comply with certain standards and ensure that all activities are carried out by their own full-time and bona fide employees.

According to some security experts, the strict enforcement of the policy is an absolute must because, at some Indian airports, non-entitled entities that are still providing ground handling services do not even comply with International Air Transport Association [IATA] standards. They cite overstaffing, with totally untrained personnel. These personnel have not undergone any background and security checks. Further, there is duplication of resources by these entities which compromises security. They also use inappropriate and outdated equipment which is useless in preventing a terrorist attack. What makes the situation worse is the presence of multiple non-entitled agencies.

All this, they say, has created an environment in which safety and security at airports are being crucially compromised.

Security officials say the new policy has plugged all these loop-holes. This is a claim that is yet to be tested.This is largely because implementation has been delayed again and again by greedy vested interests who want to put ‘their own petty profits’ before the country’s security. They are not concerned about the risk that can invite a 9/11 kind of terror attack. They are not bothered by an attack that can jeopardise the lives of a large number of people. They just don’t care that such an attack can also hurt India’s tourism industry for a long period of time by tarnishing India’s image due to the continued chaos at Indian airports.

However the new policy, when fully implemented, would really improve safety and make Indian airports more secure. This is because they it would result in the use of the best service standards. It will also eliminate the outsourced non-entitled entities from any role that could result in a hazardous act at an airport. Importantly, the new policy will as well restrict the number of service providers operating at airports thus reducing the possible sources of interference. It will have the result of bringing greater discipline among the workers as also bona fide trained workers at the airports. Besides making them foolproof from the security angle, this will have the a dded beneficial effect of preventing accidents on the apron. This is because only IATA-approved equipment, which will be limited to a certain required number only, will be operating on tarmacs and near aeroplanes in the airports.

In fact, after the success of the 11 September 2001 attacks, the question of the effectiveness of airport security has been highlighted worldwide. It will be remembered that as many as 19 hijackers had managed to evade airport security at that time. They crossed all the existing checkpoints. Since this attack, security at many airports worldwide has been raised to new levels. While this attack was qualitiatively different from the recent attack on a Pakistani air base, it nevertheless, is an example of a security challenge which faces the Indian state.There is thus a dire necessity to enforce airport security in India. [IANS]
Ravi M Khanna

Ravi M Khanna

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