It was a police chase that proved futile yet again, and that too, in a high-security zone. Acting on a tip-off that criminals were holed up in one of the abandoned quarters of the Airports Authority of India (AAI), the airport police surrounded it on Tuesday night. But before they could act, the criminals gave them the slip.
All that the posse could report to additional superintendent of police Ajay Nand was that it had seen some shadowy figures but did not shoot at them. Admitting that this was a “breach of security at Calcutta airport”, Nand said he could not explain why his men had let the suspected criminals escape.
Senior officials said this amounted to “dereliction of duty”, as it wasn’t the first time that criminals were found sheltered in these quarters, adjoining the cargo terminal. Nand said criminals often hide in the abandoned quarters and stock their stolen goods. The quarters are meant for the ground staff of the AAI but have been lying vacant for a long time. “We had recently arrested three criminals with arms and ammunition from an abandoned quarter,’’ he said.
On Tuesday night, the police said, the suspected criminals managed to slip out through holes in the boundary walls of the airport complex along Jessore Road. “Besides the broken walls, there are dense bushes in that stretch which provide cover to the criminals,” Nand said.
During the course of investigation on Wednesday, the police found that criminals also enter the complex through gate number 3 on Jessore Road. This gate is essentially for use by those visiting the bank and a few other offices on the airport premises.
After working hours, the gate is to be shut. “The iron doors of the gate have rusted and it remains open even in the night,” Nand said. “I have written to the AAI several times demanding that they shut these gates to prevent criminals from entering the complex. Once inside, the criminals have easy access to the cargo terminal and high-security areas of the airport at night.’’
Acting AAI director J. Kungari said he had directed his department to check the breaches in the boundary walls.
“We will definitely plug the holes,’’ he said, adding that he would soon hold a meeting with police officers and take steps to seal the gates permanently that have been allowing criminals easy access to a section of the airport premises. “We cannot compromise on the airport’s security,’’ said Kungari.
Unlike the airport terminal that is guarded by the Central Industrial Security Force, the AAI quarters on the periphery of the airport come under the jurisdiction of the airport police.