New Delhi: The government’s ambitious regional air connectivity Udan scheme could soon have an armed security cover in place against possible terror threats, for which a blueprint has been prepared by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF).
The Director General (DG) of the 180,000-strong paramilitary force, O.P. Singh, said an “economically viable yet strong security proposal” has been prepared by the force and submitted to the Ministry of Civil Aviation for consideration.
The Udan, or Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik scheme, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Shimla in April this year, and the most important element in its running is cost.
“We have given a model [proposal] to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, saying you can have a CISF cover in those airports [under Udan], which are regionally connected and we will give the minimum manpower ranging from 13 to 44 people.
“Such a deployment and security system would be more economical rather than a permanent deployment of the force,” the DG said.
The actual size of the CISF contingent to be deployed will depend on the size and geographical location of the airport under the scheme.
Singh said the plan is “aircraft-centric” and not airport focused to further reduce costs.
“So, we have planned something like a hub model as security for this scheme has to be cost-effective and economical.
“What we will do is that personnel from the nearest regular CISF unit will be sent to secure the airport area under the Udan scheme before a flight takes off and they will return to their base after conducting frisking of passengers, their baggage and conducting other anti-sabotage checks,” Singh said.
As an example consider Durgapur in West Bengal, the DG said, where you a steel plant is already guarded by a CISF contingent and there is an airport under the scheme nearby. The same troops can guard both facilities.
“They [the government and the aviation ministry] are examining it [the proposal]. If the government approves, we can go there. This is like going and coming back task,” the CISF boss said.
CISF is the designated civil airports security force of the country and it secures 59 airports currently.
While security officials do not confirm any threats made to the Udan facilities, they accept the aircraft need protection during taxi, take-off and landing.
The Udan seeks to make popular regional air travel on short sectors by capping fares at Rs2,500 (Dh141) per hour.
The short flights aim at boosting air connectivity to and from unserved and underserved airports, while making flying more affordable.
According to the Civil Aviation Ministry, Maharashtra has the highest number of unserved airports at 19, followed by Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh at 11 each.
West Bengal and Karnataka have seven such airports each, which do not have single flight operations.
Unserved airports are the ones where there are no flight operations whereas the underserved airports have been categorised as the ones which have three or less flight per week.