Indian airports could be the weak link in the country’s security
chain because of wrong people doing the right jobs.
The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has appointed close to 40 officials at various airports in key managerial positions of its security
But they have little professional experience in this specialised job. Some have been earlier working as personal assistants (PAs), stenographers, electricians and accountants in AAI’s finance department.
These candidates were handpicked by the AAI management through an internal department promotion (IDP) scheme which was introduced in 2014 for appointment of managers and assistant managers to handle the sensitive security wing.
THE CHOSEN ONES
Sources said that a recent incident, in which AAI’s chief security
officer of the Srinagar airport had breached the security
protocol “multiple times”, was the outcome of this ill-conceived move of promoting employees from other departments and posting them in the security
wing as part of a ‘lateral movement’ policy.
Mail Today has found out that the security
manager, Tilak Raj Guglani, who created the embarrassment, was earlier working as a PA in AAI. He was promoted as part of the IDP scheme and posted at Srinagar airport as his first job in the security
Guglani had forced the ground staff of Indigo airline to let him board the Srinagar-Delhi flight on a pass issued to another junior AAI official. A civil aviation ministry source said, “AAI was actually trying to play down the incident and took action against the official only after the top brass was pulled up by the ministry.” Indigo had promptly suspended three of its ground staffers.
Critics of the IDP policy allege that it was put in place to promote favourites and cronies and constitutes a compromise with security.
The AAI, in a response to Mail Today, confirmed that over 40 officials had been promoted through IDP and “have been posted at different airports depending on vacancy positions”.
“They were from different cadre[s] and have exposure of Airport Management by virtue of serving the organisation and attending various seminars, trainings etc.
All officials taken through IDP policy are given mandatory training in security
before posting at various airports,” the official statement said.
As far as the security
breach at the Srinagar airport is concerned, the statement said the matter is being probed. The officer has undergone the basic Aviation security
(AVSEC) course conducted by the government regulator Bureau of Civil Aviation security
A preliminary inquiry has been conducted and the concerned officer has been placed under suspension. A detailed inquiry is on before initiating disciplinary action, the statement added. “IDP Policy is in vogue” at the AAI.
Former Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) Kanu Gohain said, “unless a person has a background and previous experience in handling security
, he should not be appointed to a security
manager’s post. Only one who has knowledge of dealing with security
matters should be appointed to such a post”.
Gohain said an AVSEC course is a very basic one. “A security
officer needs to know a lot more, ranging from the drill to be followed in handling unaccompanied baggage that may contain explosives, handling situations when a fire breaks out or to neutralise an intruder.
It is a long exhaustive list and even training in hand-to-hand combat is essential for security
officials. No short term course can suffice,” he added.
wing of the AAI has powers to recommend the issuing of passes to employees of concessionaires such as restaurants and duty free shops
at the airport which requires careful screening. They are also expected to co-ordinate with the other security
agencies such as the CISF deployed at the airport.
The Modi Cabinet had last week approved the agreement between the DGCA and the French civil aviation authority, DGAC, for technical cooperation in implementing ICAO standards and practices.
Airport managers, engineers and technicians are expected to be trained by French experts under the pact. French and Indian experts would visit each other’s country on training missions. “However, if we do not put the right people in key jobs, such advanced training can be of limited help,” said a senior official.