The daring terror attack on
Pakistan's Kamra air base on Aug 16 claimed by Tehreek-e-Taliban
and persistent intelligence reports that Pakistan-based militant
groups keep planning terror attacks on India's civilian airports
should be enough to raise all kinds of alarms in India.
The attack should be a serious reminder about the fact that
terrorist groups such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba
(LeT) have openly and repeatedly announced that they would like to
destroy India's emerging economy through terror strikes, and
Pakistan has no visible plans to stop them.
If such elements can breach Pakistan's air base security, Indian
civilian airports become all the more vulnerable.
Experts say it is high time the Indian government redoubles its
efforts to bring security at its airports to international
standards, or maybe even better than the international standards
in view of the continuous threat it faces from the Pakistan-based
militant group LeT, a group that has openly vowed to destroy
The Airports Authority of India did its part on Oct 18, 2007, when
it introduced a new Ground Handling Policy, under which any agency
operating at airports would have to have 100 percent full-time
employees with their background antecedents fully checked by the
relevant security agencies.
Officials say that in view of the haphazard standards followed by
the different ground handlers at different airports of India, the
Ground Handling Policy is also aimed at limiting the numbers of
ground handling entities that can carry out such operations at
According to a government notification, under the policy, only
three ground handlers would be allowed to perform this function at
the six metro airports of the country. These would be AAI or its
joint venture company, subsidiary companies of the national
carrier and any other independent ground handling company selected
through a competitive bidding process subject to its security
The non-metro airports have been allowed self-handling by the
domestic airlines provided they comply with certain standards and
ensure that all activities are carried out by their own full-time
and bona fide employees.
According to some security experts, strict enforcement of the
policy is an absolute must because at some Indian airports,
non-entitled entities that are still providing ground handling
services do not even comply with International Air Transport
Association (IATA) standards. They cite overstaffing with totally
untrained personnel without any background and security checks,
duplication of resources, the use of inappropriate and outdated
equipment and the presence of multiple non-entitled agencies.
All this, they say, has created an environment in which safety and
security at airports are being crucially compromised.
Security officials say the new policy has plugged all these
loopholes. But its implementation has been delayed again and again
by greedy vested interests who want to put "their own petty
profits" before the country's security. They are not concerned
about the risk that can invite a 9/11 kind of terror attack,
jeopardise lives of a large number of people and also hurt India's
tourism industry for a long period of time by tarnishing India's
image due to the continued chaos at Indian airports.
Since the new policy, when fully implemented, would really improve
safety and make Indian airports more secure by using the best
service standards and eliminating outsourced non-entitled entities
as well as restricting the number of service providers operating
at airports, it would result in bringing greater discipline and
bona fide trained workers at the airports. Besides making them
foolproof from the security angle, it would also prevent accidents
on the apron because only IATA-approved equipment limited to
certain required numbers would be operating on tarmacs.
Ravi M. Khanna is a long time South Asia observer who
has headed the South Asia Desk in the Voice of America Newsroom in
Washington. His books include "TV News Writing Made Easy for
Newcomers", and can be reached at email@example.com