UDAN is a Regional Connectivity Scheme launched by the government that aims to make unserved/ underserved airports in small cities operational with regular flights, and offer subsidized airfares to encourage more people to fly

New Delhi : The ambitious UDAN scheme – the low-cost regional air connectivity network of the government – could soon have an armed security cover in place against possible terror threats as a blue print has been prepared by the aviation security force CISF, reports PTI.

The Director General (DG) of the 1.80-lakh personnel strong paramilitary force, O P Singh, told PTI in an interview that 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 (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) scheme was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Shimla in April this year and the most important factor to keep it running is cheap flight rates for passengers.

“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 (between 13-44 personnel) to be sent for the duty will depend on the size and geographical location of the airport under the scheme.

Singh said the security blueprint prepared to guard such facilities has been made as “aircraft-centric” and not airport focussed, as in the case of its regular deployment, as committing such a huge manpower will incur heavy cost.

“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.

An example in this context is a place like Durgapur in West Bengal, the DG said, where you have the steel plant (already guarded by the CISF) and the airport (under UDAN scheme) and these can be clubbed for conducting the dual tasks.

“This is what I mean by the hub. This means where you have the unit of CISF elsewhere doing some other job and at the same time they can be drafted into the aviation sector. This way you can minimise the cost of deployment and security,” he said.

What we have proposed to the government and the civil aviation ministry is that the CISF security “will be aircraft-centric rather than airport centric. They (government and the aviation ministry) are examining it. If he government approves, we can go there. This is like going and coming back task,” the CISF boss said.

The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) is the designated civil airports security force of the country and it secures 59 such airports, out of the total 98, at present.

While security officials do not confirm any input on potential terror threats to the airports under the UDAN scheme, they do accept that an armed security is required for these facilities when an aircraft takes off and lands at these unguarded or thinly guarded locations.

The UDAN seeks to popularise regional air travel on short sectors by capping fares at Rs 2,500 per hour. The short flights aim at boosting air connectivity to and from unserved and under-served airports and making flying more affordable for the common man.

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.

Similarly, West Bengal and Karnataka have seven such airports each which do not have one single flight operations.

Unserved airports are the one where there is no flight operations whereas the underserved airports have been categorised as the ones which have three or less flight per week.

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