Amid a heightened alert in the wake of Brussels terror attacks, security agencies have stepped up vigil at sensitive airports in the country with passengers being made to take off their footwear and belts and go through detailed frisking.
At major airports like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Chennai and Ahmedabad, Central Industrial Security Forces and local police have shored up security apparatus and passengers are being observed and screened minutely with reintroduction of risk-based Secondary Ladder Point Check, which entails frisking people before they enter the aircraft.
The surveillance and patrol teams along the peripheries have also been asked to be extra-cautious as passengers enter the terminal area unchecked.
While fliers at many such airports are being asked to take out their footwear and belt to undertake a “clean search”, a second layer of profiling-based body search and frisking is being conducted just before passengers board the aircraft.
“More hands are deployed when such security drills are made operational. The security staff is certainly more at certain sensitive facilities and changes will be made as per the level of threat indicated by central intelligence agencies,” a senior official involved in airport security said.
Another official said hand baggage and booked cargo of the fliers has also been brought under detailed search as part of the stepped up security drills and measures put in place in the wake of the terror attacks in airport and metro station at Brussels that left 31 people dead and 300 injured on Tuesday.
Airlines and special teams of the CISF and airport security have been asked to conduct risk-based Secondary Ladder Point Check which entails frisking passengers on the air side just before entering the aircraft.
They said these instructions are for people who look to be suspicious and hence not all passengers have to go through the SLPC.
“The instructions have been issued keeping in mind the prevailing security situation and based on the assessment of central security agencies.
“While these measures are not new and there is nothing to panic, they are being deployed to add the extra layer of security and ensure that nothing is left to chance in ensuring a fool proof security when it comes to smooth civil aviation operations,” the official said.
Armed Quick Reaction Teams of Central Industrial Security Force commandos and local police have been positioned at vantage locations to enhance vigil along the peripheries of these airports, they said.
Special anti-sabotage teams and bomb detection and disposal teams and sniffer dogs have been asked to be on stand by at these airports.
While India does not follow the ‘concourse security’ plan for civil aviation operations which entails frisking of fliers and their luggage before entering the airport, security personnel in plainclothes are being deployed increasingly to keep tab on any suspicious movements at these facilities, they said.
“Keeping in mind the ‘security hold’ pattern of airport security where passengers enter the terminal area unchecked and are frisked later in a designated area, the surveillance and patrol teams along the peripheries have been asked to be extra cautious specifically keeping in mind the heightened security alert after the Brussels attack and generally in view of the vulnerability of these facilities,” they said.
“There is a general alert to all sensitive and vital installations in view of the Brussels attack and the recently concluded Holi festivities.
“The security paraphernalia at places where there is large public interface is definitely more proactive than earlier keeping in mind that there are no added hassles in their movement and security of travellers,” they said.
Similar measures have also been deployed at the Delhi Metro network where security personnel have been asked to remain vigilant, especially over the weekend.
Image: A paramilitary soldier patrols at the international airport in New Delhi. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters