​Airport delays will persist as security shortfall likely to ease only by end of 2024

  • As per a government study, there is a shortage of over 1,300 CISF personnel at Delhi airport alone
  • The civil aviation ministry said deployment of CISF personnel at the five metro airports of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, and Bengaluru had increased by 22% over the past one-and-a-half years

Anu Sharma
First Published28 May 2024
A shortfall in security personnel at the airports not just raises security concern but also causes inconvenience to the travelling public.  (HT)
A shortfall in security personnel at the airports not just raises security concern but also causes inconvenience to the travelling public. (HT)

New Delhi: India's top 15 airports including those at Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru will likely need more than 5,000 security personnel by the end of 2024, an internal government study has shown.

With air traffic set to hit new records on the back of rising disposable incomes and aircraft additions by airlines, the shortage in security personnel will likely continue causing delays for passengers the rest of the year, with government agencies expecting the situation to ease only by the end of 2024.

As per the study conducted by the aviation ministry, there was a shortage of over 1,300 Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel at Delhi airport alone, against a sanctioned strength of around 6,200, and a gap of over 1,000 CISF against a sanctioned strength of more than 3,700 for Bengaluru airport.

A shortfall of over 800 each for Chennai and Kolkata airports—against a sanctioned strength of over 2,000 personnel each—and a gap of more than 150 personnel for Mumbai airport, which has a sanctioned strength of more than 4,100, completed the picture.

In response to Mint's query, a spokesperson for the civil aviation ministry said deployment of CISF personnel at the five metro airports of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, and Bengaluru had increased by 22% over the past one-and-a-half years, to more than 17,000 personnel as of May. 

At Delhi airport, the shortfall in CISF personnel has been reduced to around 110, and at Bengaluru airport to about 200 personnel, the spokesperson said. At the Chennai, Kolkata, and Mumbai airports, the shortfall has dropped to about 300 personnel each, according to the ministry.

To further increase the CISF strength at these airports, the ministry is working under the chairmanship of Union aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia and holding regular meetings with the Bureau of Civil Aviation and Security, CISF, the ministry of home affairs, and other stakeholders, the spokesperson said.

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The need for such assessments was felt by the government after passengers complained of delays at security counters during the peak summer travel season, and during the winter travel season too last year.

Rising air traffic

As per data from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Indian airlines carried a record 152 million passengers in 2023. That's 23% more than in 2022 and 5% higher than the pre-covid year of 2019, which was the record year till 2023.

For January-April, domestic air traffic was recorded at 52.3 million passengers, 4% higher than same period last year. The latest international data from the Airports Authority of India show that international passenger traffic at Indian airports for 2023-24 (Apr-Mar) grew 22% over the year-ago period to 69.64 million passengers. 

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Since 2013, domestic air traffic has grown by over 147% and international by over 49%.

The government estimates that the situation will ease only by the end of 2024 calendar year.

Plan to add security personnel

“We are hoping to add a significant number of security personnel before the peak season of Oct-Dec commences. We have also been in touch with the home ministry and discussions are underway to augment the immigration officer capacity too,” an official aware of the development told Mint.

In line with the government’s plan to set up multiple global aviation hubs, the study also points to the need for more immigration counters at the international airports.

Also Read: India's aviation-hub dreams get new wings as IndiGo takes long-haul route

It calls for 2,000 immigration officers and nearly 500 immigration counters across the top 15 international airports the end of 2024.

These findings of the study by the aviation ministry have been shared by the Home Ministry that is the nodal ministry for the Bureau of Immigration, which manages immigration services at the airports, and the CISF–the force that guards key airports.

As per government data, t heCISF is currently deployed at 66 airports. Security at the remaining airports is provided by state police. The security of the airports is managed by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), the civil aviation security regulator in India.

"Such assessments are done regularly with the purpose of augmenting capacity on security and immigration counters. As India is a growing economy, these requirements will continue to grow as airport infrastructure expands and more people travel through airports,” said a senior official on the condition of anonymity.

Airport companies did not comment on the story, as airport security is a government responsibility.

A spokesperson for Kolkata and Chennai airports, which are run by the respective state governments, said the CISF manpower being deployed at the two airports is as per the norms of the regulator.

“CISF is a sovereign function. We as an airport operator are not authorised to comment on the same,” a Mumbai airport spokesperson said.

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