The government on Wednesday sanctioned an armed cover of over 180 CISF personnel to guard the international airport in Maharashtra's temple town of Shirdi, which is frequented by lakhs of Sai Baba devotees every year.
The Union Home Ministry cleared the proposal to deploy the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) at the facility which was inaugurated by President Ram Nath Kovind on October 1 last year.
This will be the 60th airport in the country that will come under the security cover of the CISF, the paramilitary force tasked with securing civilian airports in the country.
"We have received the government sanction and the force will shortly take over full security duties at the Shirdi airport," CISF Director General O P Singh told PTI.
The force, along with the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) and the airport operator, has conducted a security survey of the facility in the last few months.
Officials said a contingent of 185 CISF personnel, both men and women, will be guarding the airport, apart from the vehicle-borne quick reaction teams (QRTs) that are specifically tasked to thwart terror bids.
The enhancement in the number of airports under CISF cover has come after about a decade, as the force has been guarding 59 civil airports for many years now.
Located in Ahmednagar district, at a distance of 238 km from state capital Mumbai, Shirdi is home to the famous shrine of Sai Baba and is one of the prominent pilgrimage centres in the country.
According to estimates, about 60,000 pilgrims visit Shirdi everyday, out of which the airport authorities have said they plan to tap at least 10-12 per cent.
The aerodrome is owned and developed by Maharashtra Airport Development Company (MADC), a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to develop airports in the state.
Constructed at an investment of around Rs 350 crore, the airport, with a 2,500 m-long runway, is capable of handling single narrow-body aircraft, such as Airbus A320 and Boeing 737s.
The 2,750 sqm terminal building has been designed to handle a total of 300 passengers, including the arriving ones.
The 1.80-lakh personnel strong CISF is tasked with guarding vital and critical infrastructure in the government and private domain and it works under the command of the Union home ministry.