Earlier this month,home minister R R Patil admitted the state had received intelligence inputs warning of possible suicide attacks in Mumbai and Pune,following which security was beefed up at vital installations and landmarks in the city. In the wake of the April 17 Bangalore blast,security was increased at the airport as well. SRINATH RAO looks at the security checks in place at the airport,which is guarded by Mumbai police and CISF.
The airport premises is divided into city side,which is the jurisdiction of Mumbai Police,and air side,which is the responsibility of CISF. The police jurisdiction at both domestic and international terminals ends at arrival and departure gates.
Mumbai Police said luggage and vehicles are checked at the entry points to the airport. Traffic police have created speed bumps at various points on the highway and arterial roads leading to the airport. Barricades in different patterns are set up at regular intervals to ensure drivers do not have path memory.
Parking spaces on the city side of the airport are routinely checked by sniffer dogs.
We have good coordination with CISF and intelligence is shared and acted on by both agencies, said Sadanand Date,joint commissioner of police,law and order.
He said anti-terror mobile units had been stationed close to airport access points and elite commandos posted at all sensitive locations.
We have our counter-terrorism units posted near the airport, Date said,adding,We have worked out a response time of less than five minutes. Our contingents are always in ready mode.
A separate team monitors vehicles bringing passengers. While every vehicle is examined at the entrance,CISF men randomly check suspicious vehicles in the parking lot at the terminal.
Another team profiles passenger luggage and stops suspicious luggage at the X-ray machine.
CISF has in place a team of first responders that patrols the airport premises. The team is armed and acts independently in the event of an attack. Its members can be seen driving through the premises in light machine guns-mounted jeeps.
Multiple pairs of eyes scan passengers from the minute they arrive at the airport. Their appearance,nature of luggage,body language and expressions all are scrutinised all the way into the terminal.
Armed and plainclothes personnel profile each passenger for tell-tale signs that classify them as suspicious.
These persons are politely asked about their destination and their baggage is checked at X-ray machines at departure terminals. This is done in a way it does not create panic among other travellers, said senior commandant M K Singh.
Passenger movement to and from check-in counters is under continuous watch by plainclothes officers.
While CCTV cameras cover the length of the terminal,officers pick up conversations and observe passenger behaviour.
Any terrorist who enters an airport has two objectives to attack people inside the terminal or hijack a plane. The terminal is the place where most casualties can occur, said an officer.
Specially trained officers are often sitting in the lounge posing as passengers.
Security hold area
CISF considers SHA its fortress. Every inch of SHA is under watch by CCTVs and not even a pin can enter it undetected,claimed Singh.
CISF has to make sure no suspicious individual or luggage goes inside an aircraft. No movement of men and material is possible inside SHA. We consider it out 100% safe area, Singh said.
This is why when in December last year,a passenger flying to Chandigarh claimed something was stolen from his luggage in SHA,CISF confidently denied it.
A thorough scan of security camera footage revealed the theft had taken place at the check-in counter. CISF later zeroed in on a gang of three sophisticated robbers and caught them in March.
SHA has the best scanners and profilers. Recently,we got scanners and profilers who have cleared Bureau of Civil Aviation Security exams with 90% marks, an officer said.
Airfield Aircraft are never parked close to the boundary. Each entrance and exit to the airfield is heavily guarded. A few gates at both domestic and international airports are reserved for VIPs and VVIPs. There are two armed guards atop each gate.
A terrorist may not be picked up outside and at the terminal and even bypass security at the check-in counter,but he cannot get past SHA with explosives. No terrorist can enter an aircraft with a weapon, said the officer.