The tagging of the fliers' hand baggage at seven airports will go on for now after a recent decision to do away with the same was stayed in a high-level meeting on Thursday due to the lack of required security gadgets.
The decision to put the order of the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) on hold was taken during a meeting chaired by Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju and his counterpart in the Civil Aviation ministry Jayant Sinha.
In a circular issued on February 23, the BCAS had declared that it would end the compulsory practice of putting security stamp on the hand baggage tags at seven airports with "immediate effect", despite an objection raised by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) on the same.
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- Officials said it was decided that a committee would be formed comprising senior officials from the BCAS, CISF and operators of seven airports - Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Cochin, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad - to fix the "grey" areas at these sensitive facilities so that the possibility of any security breach could be ruled out once the procedure of stamping of tag was done away with.
- "The scheme would be implemented at these airports after ratification by the committee. A similar exercise would be conducted simultaneously at the remaining 52 airports under the CISF cover for recommending modifications in the security architecture and CCTV systems so that this scheme could be implemented there as well", a CISF statement said.
- Explaining the CISF's logic to get smart gadgets installed first, a senior official said, "It was important to boost the security system at the airports to the level that was being achieved by the stamping of the hand baggage tags."
- "The stamp tags help to establish at what level a possible oversight in security could have happened. The security agencies want this to be achieved by sophisticated gadgetry", he said.
- During the meeting, the officials said that CISF DG OP Singh and Civil Aviation Secretary RN Choubey reiterated, "It needs to have High Definition (HD) multi-angle CCTV cameras in security hold areas, standby cameras with power backup facility, video analytics in CCTV and physical barriers by way of deploying acrylic sheets at X-ray baggage clearing levels so that the personnel who clear a bag could be "easily identified for the purpose of fixing accountability."
- Responding to the decision of continuing with the stamping of bags, Rijiju tweeted, "No final decision has so far been taken. A committee will visit 59 airports across the country. Only after the report is complete will a final call be taken."
- According to the officials, the committee was expected to fix the "security gaps" at the seven airports by this month-end, so that they could be made "tag free" from early next month.
- The CISF said these modifications were required "to make sure that passengers could not access bags containing restricted items, which were segregated by CISF personnel for checking (after X-ray scanning).
- "It was decided that the committee would examine the security architecture and CCTV systems of these seven airports notified by BCAS and assess their suitability for doing away with the baggage tags as suggested by CISF earlier," it said.
- The CISF, tasked to secure 59 civil airports of the country, had last year run a trial at 12 airports and decided that the measure to do away with stamping of tags could be undertaken and would help in saving time and ensuring hassle-free travel for fliers.
- While scarpping the procedure last month, BCAS had said that it was pertinent to mention that the trial run for the same (no hand baggage tag) has already been successfully conducted in two phases after putting in place the "requisite surveillance and monitoring system".
- "The feedback from the trial run has been analysed and a positive response has been recorded," it had said.