Mumbai: Juhu airport in Mumbai is the nerve centre of helicopter and small aircraft operations in Western India. Intelligence Bureau terror alerts last year warned the airport could provide a launch pad for terror attacks on the city. But despite urgent alerts by the intelligence bureau, CNN-IBN finds glaring loopholes in security and infrastructure at the airport.
Even as the air traffic control tower, hangars and helicopters lie unsecured, rows of choppers belonging corporate sector people and VIPs are parked just beside heaps of garbage.
President, Rotaract Wing Society Captain Uday Gelli said, "Juhu airport houses the largest number of helicopters in the country. They provided the maximum support to the oil and gas industry. So today if someone wants to play any mischief, they can actually get inside the airport and damage the helicopter."
The airport, spread across 400 acres, sees a 150 takeoffs and landings a day. It's extensively used by offshore oil operations, and by virtually all of corporate India's top leaders. To plug these loopholes in security, the Home Ministry had sanctioned 174 CISF personnel. But despite the urgency of the IB terror alert, no new personnel have been stationed at the airport so far, the reason, a housing shortage.
The airports authority and state government with hundreds of acres of land at their disposal, are still unable to find accommodation for the new personnel.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said, “We are looking at a location in Vashi, but haven't been able to identify a spot yet.”
The airport itself has remained unchanged for 70 years. Its air traffic control tower, built during World War II, like the hangars beside it. Urgent appeals for an upgrade have fallen on deaf ears.
The airport already has a sanctioned Rs 48 crore at its disposal for upgradation for security and infrastructure. But those plans have been put on the backburner until after the monsoon. In the meanwhile, sources at the airport telling us all the airport has done is request the Mumbai police to occasionally patrol the periphery of the 400 acres of airport - an exercise that seems inadequate at best for such a central installation.