Despite IB alert, airstrip continues to remain vulnerable as authorities do not have accommodation for the 174 jawans sanctioned to man it six months ago.
Six months ago, in a move to provide extra security cover to Juhu aerodrome, the Ministry of Home Affairs had sanctioned the deployment of the Central Industrial Security Force here. Some 174 CISF personnel were to take guard at the airport, after shifting to the city, many with their families.
Terror threat: On September 13, the IB sent out an alert that a small
aircraft may be used to carry out a terror attack.
Pic for representation/ Pradeep Dhivar
So when in September, the Intelligence Bureau revised its threat perception for the city -- particularly, the airports -- and put out a red alert, the airstrip should have been prepared for any eventuality. But it is still not. The personnel are yet to take charge owing to the lack of proper accommodation facilities, leaving the airport exposed.
MiD DAY has learnt that the aerodrome operates with 40 policemen and 40 private security guards despite its susceptibility, and will continue to do so for a few more months, until the housing infrastructure is created or leased.
According to a senior official from the aerodrome, "The permission related to CISF cover was sanctioned six months ago, but the airport has failed to fix the accommodation for the security personnel till date. The CISF team was not satisfied with the housing facilities and other resources, so the implementation was delayed."
Of the 174 personnel, 94 are eligible for family accommodation, which is not yet available. For the rest of the jawans, a hangar at the airport was built into barracks.
M Yadgiri, director, Juhu Aerodrome, said, "We have already got the sanction for the CISF personnel from the MHA. But they have certain reservations and we are working on that."
He added, "The security personnel need accommodation, and for 80, we have made provisions in the hangar, which has been converted into barracks. For the remaining 94, who need family accommodation, we do not have built-up infrastructure. We plan to rent out space now, and expect that the team will take charge soon," Yadgiri added.
SK Saraswat, PRO, CISF Headquarters, Delhi, said, "The MHA has already given its approval for the deployment of CISF at Juhu aerodrome. The delay is happening due to the accommodation issue for the personnel, which is still to be sorted. The aerodrome authorities have assured us that things are making a headway, and we hope to resume work soon."
The IB alert
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. The alert assumed grave proportions in the backdrop of the anniversary of 9/11 attack and the September 13 serial blasts in Delhi in 2008.
A day before the alert, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram met CM Prithviraj Chavan, to review the state's security. In a bid to avoid a strike, authorities issued new directives including conducting special background checks on flyers, intensifying boarding pass procedures, and compulsorily removing copter battery. MiD DAY had reported about the directives on September 19 ('Boarding pass now a must for joyrides')
In the wake of intelligence reports, even permission related to chopper joyrides and flower showers from Juhu airport was cancelled on September 11, the final day of Ganpati immersion. ('No view from the top on Visarjan Day', September 13, MiD DAY)
Juhu aerodrome, which has a vast area of 385 acres, is home to more than hundreds of choppers and aircraft being operated by more than 24 airline companies.
A major portion of the aerodrome has big slums like Indira Nagar and Nehru Nagar, which could pose a safety threat given their proximity to the structure.
The CISF is the central armed police force. It provides security cover to 300 industrial units and other establishments located all over India like atomic power plants, space installations, defence production units, oil fields and major airports and ports.