MUMBAI – It is an official government order now: only Indian citizens can be appointed to the top security posts in airlines. The Bureau of Civil Avia
tion Security (BCAS) last week finally cleared the air on the nationality aspect in airline security posts which till now was ridden with ambiguity.

Jet Airways had appointed Steve Ramiah, a Singaporean national as its vice-president, security, a month ago as the country did not clearly dictate the terms in such appointments.

“Only an Indian citizen shall be appointed as chief security officer (CSO) of any Indian air carrier and such CSO would directly report to head of the airlines concerned in all matters of security,” said the order issued by M Malaviya, addl commissioner of security , BCAS, on September 24. The order was effected by Jet Airways’ decision taken in the last week of August to have a foreigner as its vice-president, security. “Since Ramiah is a Singaporean national, the airline mentioned in its offer letter that his appointment would stand terminated if the Indian government does not approve of his employment with an Indian carrier,” said a source.

The decision on nationality was taken in a high-level meeting called by BCAS on September 11, which was attended by representatives of IB, RAW, home ministry, civil aviation ministry and airlines. It was unanimously decided that top security posts should only go to Indian nationals. Globally, each country has its own rule on this matter, with some airlines in the Middle East having foreigners in key security posts, while other airlines, like those in the US reserve the post only for its citizens.

The second part of the order-that of CSO reporting only to the head of airline-was already a security norm in India, but as quite a few airlines in India were violating it, the BCAS reiterated the term in its recent circular. In fact, BCAS officials brought up the matter in the said meeting as well, only to find the representatives of Kingfisher Airlines and IndiGo confess that their top security official does not report to the head of the airline. Jet Airways, too, in thw May 8, 2008, offer letter made to Steve Ramiah for the post of vice-president, security, asked him to report to its chief commercial officer.

“To foolproof security, it is imperative to have an airline’s CSO report to the head of the airline and not the chief commercial officer as the latter would only have commercial interests as top priority,” said a source. “Both Kingfisher Airlines and Indigo airlines were directed that this anomaly should be corrected with immediate effect and a report to this effect should be submitted to BCAS within a period of 15 days,” said the minutes of the BCAS meeting.