Mumbai: India's oldest airport to now get adequate security

After negotiating with the CISF for nearly 6 years, Airports Authority of India and the state have agreed to secure the Juhu aerodrome with guards from the state security corps

The country’s oldest airport the Juhu aerodrome has been been under constant threat from terror elements owing to negligible security, but is now finally set to get some cover with the deployment of guards from the state security corps.

With two operational runways, the Juhu aerodrome is used as a heliport for private charters, and to ferry Oil and Natural Gas Corporation personnel by the carrier Pawan Hans to offshore oil rigs at Bombay High. File pic
With two operational runways, the Juhu aerodrome is used as a heliport for private charters, and to ferry Oil and Natural Gas Corporation personnel by the carrier Pawan Hans to offshore oil rigs at Bombay High. File pic

While the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) have been bickering over security at the aerodrome since 2009, the state Home ministry has now agreed to provide extended security cover at the airport with guards and trained personnel drawn from the Maharashtra State Security Corporation (MSSC).

A proposal to induct as many as 52 jawans was accepted in a meeting between AAI and the Home department on January 15, and the final approval is under process. With two operational runways, Juhu airport is used as a heliport for private charters, and to ferry Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) personnel by the carrier Pawan Hans to offshore oil rigs at Bombay High.

“Juhu airport will now become the first airport to be manned by the state corps, and we would like to believe that our personnel are as equipped and trained as the CISF securing several airports in the country. So far, we have been providing cover to JNPT (Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust) and other such vital installations with the help of the MSSC forces,” additional chief secretary (Home) K P Bakshi told mid-day.

The state agreed to provide the 52 personnel at a cost of R20,000 a month, which amounts to a total expenditure of nearly Rs 1.5 crore. This, airport sources said, is much lower than the amount quoted by the CISF in 2009, which was Rs 13 crore, although that has now climbed to R18 crore as per the latest CISF proposal.

Because of the steep cost, the security issue has been tossed between the AAI and CISF for the past few years, even as frequent terror alerts were raised, warning of an eminent strike at the aerodrome. In October 2013, intelligence agencies sounded a red alert over the possible use of the Juhu airstrip to launch unmanned light aircrafts laden with explosives.

“The airport has been grappling with the issues of slum encroachment, dismal security, easy access points, fewer CCTV cameras for many years. But nobody seemed to care despite the terror threats from various agencies,” said a senior AAI official.

Sources said AAI has currently deployed 31 guards from the Maharashtra State Guard Board (MSGB) round the clock, and, additionally, Mumbai Police has deputed 30 officials for maintaining law and order at the facility.

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