Hotlines at airports to tackle hijack situations
13 airports in the country may soon have hotlines linked to crisis management rooms in the Civil Aviation Ministry and Cabinet Secretariat to deal with hijacking situations. The move comes in the wake of the Pathankot attack which triggered the government to review the security apparatus of critical infrastructure in India. The Airport Authority of India (AAI) will install the hotlines at major airports.
A more stringent anti-hijacking law
The government announced its intention to introduce tougher Anti-Hijacking laws by repealing the Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982. Capital punishment, which earlier could be awarded in case of the death of security personnel or hostages, would be extended to include deaths of ground staff as well. The definition of hijacking would expand from "in-flight" to "in-service", to include incidents occurring during flight preparation, prior to takeoff.
Airport security: A serious concern
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture found that 8 airports in the country are not under Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) protection, the only specialized aviation security agency in India. Criticizing the lack of attention towards aviation security, it categorized 26 of the 98 operational airports as 'hyper-sensitive'. It has also highlighted lack of security equipment like X-rays, CCTVs, etc.
Anti-hijacking legislation in India
India established the Anti-Hijacking Act in 1982 to tackle hijacking situations. However, since that time, there has arisen a need for consolidating the law to include a national hostage policy to tackle hostage crises emanating from such incidents.
Why is the hotline needed?
India has faced 6 aircraft hijackings since gaining Independence in 1947. The communication gap during the 1999 Indian Airlines IC-814 hijacking delayed the response of security agencies. The permanent hotlines aim to avoid this. Now, in case of any eventuality, the aircrafts will be diverted to the nearest airport with a hotline and communication would not only be immediate, but also much more streamlined.
Airports with hotlines
The two dedicated hotlines will be setup at 13 airports - Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Trivandrum, Nagpur, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Lucknow and Guwahati - spreading across India's territory.
More security measures required: Experts
Security experts have used this opportunity to suggest various measures for further strengthening the security of airports. Former AAI board member Robey Lal recommended strengthening cargo security and implementing Perimeter Intrusion Detection Systems to prevent a security breach. Others have suggested providing basic martial training to cabin crew as done in China and Singapore, increasing number of CISF personnel, installing full body scanners, etc.