Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Juhu airport still dirty, defenceless

MUMBAI: Despite repeated terror threats and a two-month-old promise to deploy state police security personnel, Juhu airport remains one of the most vulnerable aerodromes in the country.

As the proposal to induct 117 police personnel is pending with the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security ( BCAS), only 30 policemen currently guard the airport. The policemen also cannot provide round-the-clock security due to lack of basic amenities such as washrooms and toilets for them. The newly laid perimeter road, around 500 metres long, has already become unapproachable and unhygienic for even policemen as slum-dwellers use it as an open toilet, said sources. Juhu airport's boundary also continues to be open to intrusions.

Sources at the airport said two months ago, locals from Nehru Nagar slum, a part of which already extends around 29 acres into the airport, started constructing a structure within the airport premises; it was subsequently demolished by the airport officials and the police.

"There are still repeated intrusions into the airport. The police force currently deployed is not enough to guard it," said an Airports Authority of India (AAI) official. He added a proper boundary wall can be constructed only when security officials patrol the area and keep slum-dwellers from demolishing it.

Currently, the extended portion of the slum is barely 100 meters from the edge of the secondary runway. Children walk in to play on the runway and people from the neighbourhood steal aircraft spare parts.

Earlier, AAI was in negotiations with the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) for about four years. After a long stand-off, AAI, in July, eventually decided to get 117 state police officials to guard the airport. These officials would not only ensure security at the boundary but also check staffers and people coming into the airport to board flights.

"Currently, all companies operating from the airport handle their security individually. There is no one independent agency conducting checks. This increases the risk," said an airport source. He further said the proposal to deploy police is still awaiting sanction despite Juhu airport being on the list of terror threats.