Friday, April 01, 2016

Govt clamps down on VIP hangers-on at airports, limits entry passes to one

Following the terror attack at Brussels airport, the Indian Civil Aviation Ministry has decided to limit the number of airport entry passes (AEPs) issued to a VIP’s entourage to just one in an attempt to plug potential security loopholes, The Economic Times reported on Friday.

The AEPs, which allows a person unhindered access to the restricted and operational areas of airports, are typically provided to staff and personnel attached to Union ministers and members of Parliament (MPs), apart from state resident commissioners, embassies and some other bureaucrats.

According to the ET report, from now on, only one member from a ministerial or Parliamentarian’s staff will be given such full access. This is in sharp contrast to the earlier system of having no limits on issuing such passes. So far, such permits have been issued freely to MPs, ministers, state resident commissioners, embassies and some other officials.

Under general circumstances, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) has the authority to issue AEPs. However, in case of an exigency, the airport's director is also authorised to issue temporary AEPs. Temporary AEPs also require "photo identification proofs and recommendations of the deployment agency".

Soon after the terrorist attack on the Brussels airport earlier this month, the proposal was approved by Union Minister for Civil Aviation Ashok Gajapati Raju and Minister of state (Independent charge) Civil Aviation Mahesh Sharma, The Economic Times report said.

While the government has taken a decision on the matter only now, the issue of potential security breaches posed by the AEPs has been raised in the past too. Furthermore, there have been cases where protocol has not been followed while issuing such permits.

In 2012, according to an Indian Express report, the BCAS had proposed that permanent AEPs issued for VIP protocol and transferable passes issued to embassies be scrapped. Instead, the aviation security regulator had recommended that only one-time and non-transferable passes be issued for receiving VIPs and for diplomatic formalities.

According to the report, till that time, the BCAS had issued over 2,000 permanent permits.

As recently as October 2015, there was a security lapse in connection to Air India Express not following the proper protocols related to AEPs.
01/04/16 Business Standard
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