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Issue No.: 561 | March 2014

CCTV Confusion

“Sardar” Sanjay Matkar
Maharashtra Government officials have shown a distinct lack of knowledge on how the system should be designed, deployed and how it should function!

Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) is the new mantra of security. The Maharashtra Govt. has floated tenders for CCTV surveillance systems in the cities of Pune, Nashik , Nagpur, besides the most prominent Mumbai. The CCTV surveillance system in Mumbai envisages 6,000 CCTV cameras spread all over the city and will take five years to be installed and become operational.

The project has had setbacks since its very conception. Tendered three times, and once granted to Gujarat based Sai Infotech System for Rs. 650 crores, the project did not materialize since the vendor was unable to provide the requisite bank guarantee. What is most interesting about this specific case is that the original offer from Sai Infotech was for Rs. 1,051 crores. No explanation was asked by the Maharashtra Govt. about the reduction in quote by 50% by the vendor or if such an explanation was given, the Government did not feel the need to share it with the people of Mumbai.

Groping in the Dark

So, what is wrong with this entire deal? First and foremost, the Maharashtra Govt. officials have shown a distinct lack of knowledge on how the system should be designed, deployed and most important how it should function. The tender documents are sold by the State’s Home Department at a cost of Rs. 50,000 per set and requires that the vendor must give a signed undertaking to not divulge the design concepts of the required CCTV system since it is "highly confidential”. This is quite amusing since detailed designs of city wide CCTV systems already deployed in London (UK), Seattle City and Boston City (USA) are available on the internet for those who would like to look for it. The fact is that the Maharashtra Home Department’s babus have no idea what is needed. CCTV system is supposed to aid the Police and Intelligence agencies to:
  1. keep under surveillance areas that have a high crime rate or potential to be either the base of terrorists  or the target of their attack, 
  2. observe the flow of traffic (pedestrians and vehicles) in high risk areas to assess potential law and order problems and take action to contain such problems in the shortest possible time, and
  3. use CCTV footage to analyze the crime and detect the perpetrators in case of a disturbance or terror attack.
Why Use Outdated Technology?

The CCTV surveillance system that is currently being tendered by the Maharashtra Govt. at a cost of Rs. 640 crores involves use of decades old technology using analogue signals. The latest technology uses digital signals transmitted over wireless network better in quality, speed and more accurate in imaging. (In pure layman terms; the former technology is like old style TV signals over an antenna, and latter is HDTV signal via satellite dish). 

In terms of expenditure; the analogue technology will involve digging a few hundred kilometres of trenches all over the city to lay the fibre optic cable – a major portion of un-necessary cost – and will also involve setting up outdated camera systems. Add to that other factors such as earnest money, performance bank guarantee, political kick-backs, etc. and the public exchequer will pay a heavy price for a system that will ultimately not be useful and / or will fail in its purpose, not to mention the time required to set up the system.

On the other hand, using digital signals will not only give a wider and saturated coverage of the city, but will also give better picture quality and faster transmission time. The signals will be relayed via the existing mobile telephony network, totally doing away with the cost of laying out a fibre optic cable network. Digital technology enables facilitate face and gait recognition. Additionally, such a system comprising 6,000 to even 10,000 digital cameras will not cost more than Rs 100 crores and can be deployed in six to eight months. Furthermore, existing CCTV systems at the airport terminals, Mumbai dockyards, or any other existing facility over a 25 Kilometre range can be seamlessly included into the network via a grid system.

Such systems and software designed in India by local engineers are deployed abroad by Indians and / or Indian companies. However, the government procurement procedures, designed to be inflexible so that only the privileged handful of companies will qualify for undertaking these projects, has made it impossible for the intelligence and police services to utilize this important technology that will assure the general public of higher standards of crime prevention and ultimate safety of life and property. 

"SARDAR” SANJAY MATKAR is a Nationalist,
Humanitarian. He believes in equality for all citizens under a single national flag. 





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