It turned out to be an April Fool’s joke after all for Juhu aerodrome, albeit unwittingly so. After missing several deadlines to implement the much-touted and much-needed CISF security cover for the airstrip, authorities here had categorically stated that drafting of the elite security personnel would begin on April 1 (‘Finally, Juhu aerodrome to get CISF cover next month’, March 12, MiD DAY). Three weeks later the implementation is still hanging fire, due to unavailability of proper accommodation for the CISF personnel.
Central agencies including Intelligence Bureau (IB) are working day and night to bring out a foolproof draft to secure the vulnerable aerodrome. Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) sanctioned 174 CISF personnel for the airstrip a while back. Despite all this, the ground realities haven’t changed. “The airport authority promised that induction would start from April 1. Three weeks prior to that a team was asked to coordinate with airport officials to check the status of accommodation. When our officials reached, no residential provisions had been finalised. We even accompanied airport officials to search for quarters at places like Vashi and Mira Road. But the rates were overshooting the budget. Finally, the induction got delayed,” said a source at MHA. He also confirmed that Airports Authority of India (AAI) had earlier too set deadlines for the implementation and missed them.
IB comes calling
Sources also confirmed that a four-member Intelligence Bureau (IB) team visited Juhu aerodrome earlier this week to prepare a security assessment report. The delegation visited all the sensitive points inside the airstrip, and also surveyed all the hangars and slum areas situated nearby. The CISF cover to Juhu aerodrome was sanctioned in April 2011, and AAI, that controls the aerodrome, was asked to wind up pre-induction formalities, like family accommodations and barracks for security personnel. The aerodrome authority made the barracks ready for 80 personnel, but due to shortage of funds could not arrange family lodgings for the other 94. During an assessment visit by the expert committee of MHA earlier this year it was decided that the existing CISF cover of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) inside the aerodrome will be withdrawn and merged with the new sanction. The move was also aimed at reducing the financial constraints for AAI, as the expenses will be shared with ONGC as part of the new arrangement.
The Juhu aerodrome authority discussed the new terms of MHA with ONGC, which refused to accept some of the conditions. Consequently the induction got delayed further. According to the stipulations in the new sanction, the CISF will cover one passenger terminal and the supervisory powers of the troops will be in the hands of Juhu aerodrome authority. The aerodrome authority, which doesn’t have a passenger terminal building, wants to use the one with ONGC for common purposes, which the latter rejected. ONGC also doesn’t want to surrender its supervisory powers over CISF to the aerodrome authority. Sources also added that ONGC is not agreeing to provide accommodation to more than 70 personnel who will be deployed in its premises. “It is true that the drafting process got delayed. We are doing our best so that it is not postponed again,” said M Yadagiri, director, Juhu aerodrome.
On September 13, the Intelligence Bureau sent out an all-India alert that a small aircraft may be used to carry out a terror attack. Security was reinforced and checks were intensified at airports, including at Juhu aerodrome, the hub of small aircraft in western India. Top police officials personally visited the aerodrome frequently.