CHENNAI: It’s an unhappy marriage that often erupts in skirmishes, usually in front of waiting passengers. Tussles between Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel and airport staff (both AAI and private) are not uncommon, as incidents are reported at least 4-5 times a year. In the wake of the rather violent altercation that took place at the Kozhikode Airport on Wednesday, the rocky relationship the twain share in major airports like Chennai has come into focus.
In January this year, when CISF personnel refused to allow the wife of a CPI MP through the VIP gate, he wasn’t too upset. But that wasn’t the case with the airport trade unionists who came to see him off. They argued and nearly came to blows till the MP intervened and calmed them down.
“There is a lot of history between both the parties. It’s not just about that issue alone. There was bitterness when CISF had strictly disallowed several regular employees, who did not renew their passes, from entering the airport on January 1,” said an airport officer.
The misgivings simply stay out of sight till an opportunity to retaliate presents itself. Things really soured in 2013 when warders and CISF staff kept clashing over whose responsibility it was to allow passengers inside, leading to complaints from both sides, before an arbitration was held to set the matter to rest.
“Most of our constables are extremely tense during work because of the huge responsibility of guarding such a large airport. There is also a communication problem because most of them converse only in Hindi, but airport staff often take advantage and don’t stop for checks or to show identity cards. We cannot blame them for reacting sharply when rules are breached,” said a CISF AC posted in the airport.
Despite claiming that they’re overworked with long shifts, the government insists that the necessary strength of 1200 guards has been met, “Maybe now there is more staff, but a year ago only 850-900 guards were available. Those were tough times,” he added.
A major cause for friction between both groups is that airport employees feel insulted at being checked constantly, AAI officials say guards aren’t exactly courteous when they do it, “They’re quite rude at times and treat our employees as though they’re criminals.
They also say rude things in Hindi without realising that most of our staff also understand the language. This is why some friction occurs,” said an employee of a private airline.