Mumbai has only a few cameras to prevent strikes

By : Leslie D'Monte
Last Updated: Fri, Jul 15, 2011 06:44 hrs
A day after the Mumbai blasts

Even three years after a series of blasts brought Mumbai to its knees, the country’s financial capital does not seem to have learnt surveillance lessons. The city has just 100 internet protocol (IP)-based closed circuit televisions (CCTVs) installed at traffic signals.

These were installed around three years ago. The technology has matured since.

The number pales in comparison with New Delhi’s 4,000 surveillance cameras. London has over four million such cameras.

Mumbai does have 820-odd CCTVs at railway stations, covering the stretch from Churchgate to Virar (around 60 km). The stretch from CST (formerly Victoria Terminus) to Thane also has CCTVs. However, most have analog and not IP-based cameras. IP cameras can send and receive real-time data via computer networks and the internet. They can also be remotely operated.

Installing surveillance cameras is not very expensive. The Churchgate-Virar project, for instance, was undertaken by Zicom, for which it did not charge the government. The state government pays around Rs 11 lakh per month as service fee. However, the cameras have not been upgraded since.

“Surveillance technology changes rapidly. It’s imperative that governments keep up with the latest technologies and invest in them. They need to increase spending on security measures,” said Pramoud Rao, managing director, Zicom Electronic Security Systems (Zicom).

In Images: Battered Zaveri Bazaar gets used to its sitting-duck tag

Not much progress has happened on this front.

A few weeks after 26/11, the Maharashtra government allocated a little over Rs 300 crore for security measures. Of this, around Rs 124 crore has been spent — primarily on buying AK-47s, bullet-proof jackets and vans, and creation of a commando force.

“India hardly spends anything on electronic surveillance,” said Vijay Mukhi. He should know, for he headed the “Communications & Cybersecurity” cell — one of the six sub-groups of the State Security Council appointed by the Maharashtra government after 26/11.

“I chaired the committee and submitted a detailed report to the Maharashtra government. There has been no follow-up from the government,” he said.

Around 5,000 CCTVs were to be deployed in Maharashtra. “But the state is yet to get any of these,” said a source close to the development. The scenario in the rest of the country appears to be similar. Last May, Home Minister P Chidambaram released a paper which had recommendations from the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and HCL Security -- a 100 per cent subsidiary of HCL Infosystems. The paper, on the ‘Safe City’ framework, suggested ways to deal with the security threats facing the nation.

All mega cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad “should have an integrated security system installed at the earliest”, it suggested.

Rothin Bhattacharya, CEO of HCL Security and chairman of the CII’s Committee on Internal Security, says he hasn't seen much follow-up since. “We at CII hoped the ‘Safe City’ framework would be a model to be replicated. There could have been more action on this front,” he says. He believes India needs $4-5 billion to secure its top 10-12 cities.

Now, compare Mumbai to Delhi. The Commownwealth Games gave a fillip to security measures in Delhi, say security experts. The National Capital Region (NCR) was allocated Rs 8 crore. Gurgaon got another Rs 6 crore for installation of surveillance equipment. Over 2,000 CCTVs were installed at the Games venues apart from 58 markets and 27 border checkposts. Besides, the Delhi Police spent over Rs 100 crore on X-ray scanners, metal detectors and communication systems for the venues. Nearly Rs 50 crore was spent on developing traffic and communication network in NCR.

Last October, HCL Security tied up with a global virtualisation solutions firm —Barco — to set up a new C4i (Command, Control, Communication, Computing and Intelligence) centre in Delhi and provide a sophisticated surveillance system for communication with patrol officers during the Games. Nearly 1,000 police control room vans, 12 police video monitoring vehicles and 700 other monitoring vehicles were linked to the centre.

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