The timing for an anti-hijacking drill couldn’t have been more perfect as it was held the same day Parliament passed the Anti-Hijacking Bill. But in the drill held by security agencies yesterday at the Mumbai airport a bus was used instead of an aircraft.
While some security official said the use of aircraft depends on its availability, another said the aircraft was not used to not reveal some strategies to other agencies. Colonel Mahendra Pratap Choudhary, ex-Commander, Special Group, said, “The anti-hijacking drill is performed to let all the agencies know their job during a hijack. They need to know how the airport traffic and ground activities will be controlled. This time, a bus was used for convenience. At all times an aircraft may not be available but because the agencies have to practice coordination, a bus is used as an aircraft.”
The participating agencies included National Security Guard (NSG), Intelligence Bureau (IB), Mumbai International Airport Pvt Ltd (MIAL), its fire services, local administration and paramedics. The drill, which took place from 4 pm to 6 pm yesterday, was held at an isolation bay without affecting flight operations. Another official said, “We do not want any other agency other than NSG and CISF to know the detailed plans about handling aircrafts. That’s why we do not include an aircraft and use a bus in order to keep few strategies confidential.” MIAL didn’t respond to mid-day’s email over the use of a bus.
The two-hour-long annual drill had 150 personnel participating in it. “The drill was conducted in a setting, where hypothetically an anti-social group had hijacked a plane, and we had a job to rescue the passengers. We observe areas like vacating a bay, handling passengers and the emergency situation. And then work on loopholes, if any,” said an airport official.
NSG and IB acted as observers in the drill to help other agencies improve. “The main aim of this drill was to handle a situation of hijacking in the absence of NSG. Due to this, the CISF was in intervention position,” said a senior airport official.
The officials, however, refused to reveal the observations. An MIAL official said, “This was one of the most successful drills till date. There have been suggestions for improvement but they cannot be disclosed for security reasons.”
An NSG team had conducted an anti-hijacking mock drill on February 22 using an Air India flight at the old Mumbai airport. It had 121 participants, which included 30 officers and 91 commandos.
The number of security personnel who participated in the drill