THE UNION Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is set to move a proposal before the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for taking over the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), currently under the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA). The move, initially opposed by MoCA, was proposed on the ground that security at airports is provided by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which reports to the MHA.
BCAS is responsible for laying down standards, policies and measures with regard to security of all commercial flights. Multiple agencies working at airports, including the Intelligence Bureau, immigration officials, security personnel, local police, are bound by regulations passed by BCAS.
“The discussion to take control of BCAS has been on for a while. We have finally decided to vest it in the MHA’s internal security wing, and a Cabinet proposal will be moved soon,” a senior government official confirmed to The Sunday Express.
Asked about MoCA’s objections, the official, who did not want to be named, said: “Discussions in this regard have been held at the top level involving the PMO and NSA, after which this decision has been taken, keeping in mind the safety and security of airports. Once the Cabinet gives its approval, the CISF will assume a larger role in airport security.The new set-up will help in better coordination and monitoring, since the CISF, IB and state intelligence all report to MHA.”
The decision is based on a security audit conducted by a team of experts from the MHA, IB, CISF and BCAS, which had recommended the change.
Another reason cited for taking control of BCAS is the issue of security clearances for airlines and airports, granted by the MHA. “In the past, there have been inordinate delays in granting clearances due to differences between the MHA and MoCA on the grounds that airlines and airports have not complied with the norms despite guidelines. In fact, the Aviation Secretary wrote to the PMO for expediting such clearances earlier this year,” said the official.
The move may result in an increase in passenger security fee since the CISF will be deployed at all the 98 airports across the country, said the official.
Set up as a cell in the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in 1978, after an Indian Airlines flight was hijacked in September 1976, BCAS was reorganised as an independent department under the MoCA on April 1, 1987, as a follow-up to the Kanishka bombing in June 1985. It is currently headed by a commissioner of security.
In 2012, the then UPA government moved a proposal to set up an exclusive Aviation Security Force (ASF), under the control of BCAS, to replace CISF at airports, following the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s recommendation. However, the proposal was rejected by the NDA government, which decided to strengthen the CISF instead.