The ugly showdown between representatives of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and Customs on Wednesday (‘All-out war between CISF and Customs at Mumbai airport’) that left the city’s international airport effectively defenceless for about four hours was the outcome of a series of unpleasant scrimmages between the agencies.
Relations nosedived on August 10 and 11 when Customs apprehended two CISF personnel with about 11 kilograms of smuggled gold. The case came as a major embarrassment for the CISF fraternity, bringing it under the radar of Customs and escalating the hostility.
Irked by the random checks by Customs and that too in its area, CISF started screening top Customs officials, treating them without any courtesy, which did not go down well with thelatter.
“It is nothing but a clash of egos between the two key agencies and none of them are prepared to blink first. CISF that is responsible for Mumbai airport security has this belief that that its firewall ensures smooth flight operations. However, in the last few months Customs has made news for big contraband hauls and also intercepted two CISF personnel for wrongdoing. This is hardly an endorsement of CISF’s viewpoint,” a top aviation source told this newspaper.
“This is the ideal time for intervention from the civil aviation top brass or the situation will go further downhill,” the official quipped. CISF’s September letter to senior officials in civil aviation, home and finance ministries, pointing out the increasing Customs interference added fuel to the flames.
“It is to intimate that since last few days, personnel of Customs department are deployed at all the operational gates for checking of vehicles, which is affecting the security functioning of CISF and creating problems,” the letter reads. Later, Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) office in Mumbai wrote to the Customs commissioner about the mounting intrusion of Customs in security issues. Customs, which is authorised to conduct anti-smuggling checks and notify all the exit and entry points of airport ensuring that all duties are collected properly and smuggling activities are restricted, has not replied to the letter.
However, after facing criticism from the bigwigs over the Wednesday incident the two agencies seemed to be in the mood for a compromise yesterday and finally the issues were thrashed out. “We had a meeting with CISF, MIAL and BCAS on Thursday. All disputes are amicably settled,” airport Customs commissioner P M Saleem told MiD DAY.