At 3 pm yesterday, Customs officials were examining vehicles at gate no 1 (VVIP entrance) and 6 (entrance for pantry and cargo vehicles) of Mumbai international airport. This was an anti-smuggling and security check and hence all conveyances were being stopped. During the surveillance two CISF vehicles were detained, as they did not have bona fide passes to operate.
“We are assigned to conduct random security and anti-smuggling checks. We were carrying out one on Wednesday. One of the CISF vehicles did not have a valid pass and another had one that had expired. As this is a major lapse and the agency responsible for safety at the airport was at fault, the matter was reported to Bureau of Civil Aviation Security,” said a top Customs official, adding, “CISF in retaliation quit both the security gates and with no options left our officers were forced to take charge. One of the major reasons for the CISF response is the recent apprehension of two of their officials for smuggling (‘Is Mumbai airport in safe hands ahead of I-Day?’, Aug 14,
MiD DAY). We are writing to the home and finance ministries to bring the unprofessional behaviour of CISF to their notice.”
When this newspaper contacted the top brass of CISF in Mumbai, they said the aforementioned allegations were utterly wrong and fabricated.
“The entire row started after the arrival of airport Customs commissioner PM Saleem at gate no 6 around 2 pm. Our security personnel stopped him for a security check. Taking this as an insult to their senior, Customs officers conducted an arbitrary inspection and impounded our vehicles. For a very long time they have been running a campaign to malign CISF's good name. Anyone who enters the airport is a subject to security check and we have done our job,” a senior CISF official told MiD DAY.
“We had stayed silent so far, because we did not want to hamper daily business at the airport, but Customs repeatedly indulging in such resentful acts made us leave the gates unguarded, as they think they are better security managers,” the official added. Customs conducted similar raids on October 15 as well, CISF sources revealed.
After CISF personnel departed from both the gates, security was managed till 7.30 pm by Customs officials.
“We don’t want to comment on the issue. To avoid any impact on flight operations, Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) opened other gates for vehicles,” an MIAL spokesperson told this newspaper.
Top sources revealed that relationship between the two agencies soured after a recent letter of CISF to the home and finance ministries, in which it alleged that Customs was
stopping the force from performing its duty through unnecessary interference in security matters.