Camera Surveillance for policing
-By Maxwell Pereira
mfjpkamath@gmail.com

On Dec 29, 2006 Home Minister Shivraj Patil launched the camera surveillance traffic monitoring system in Delhi - as part of Home Ministry’s grand plans for Mega City Policing in the country - to monitor Delhi’s 48 lakh registered vehicles plying on its 31,000 kilometre road length… plus more, floating in from the NCR towns of Gurgaon, NOIDA, Gaziabad, Faridabad, Bahadurgarh and Sonipat. Commissioner KK Paul said on the occasion that 32 cameras have been installed at 9 different locations in Delhi, to be operated from the Teen Murti Traffic Police offices on Mother Teresa Crescent.

Grand function, great hype, a worthy beginning? Is this enough though, is the moot question. To me, it’s a big farce, a tamasha, a big hoax the government is playing on a gullible people used to ‘wow’ing every little new step locally introduced without realising how utterly slow we are, years behind in introducing technology or providing needed infrastructure in our own city/cities. I had seen these cameras in Japan as early as in 1990 – six of them alone installed along the route from Narita airport to Tokyo city.

Compare the Delhi scene with what is available in other mega-cities across the world. In April 2006 New York launched a scheme to install 500 additional cameras throughout the city at a cost of $9 million, with more to follow, costing $81.5 million more to cover Lower Manhattan and parts of midtown with a surveillance "ring of steel" modelled after security measures in London's financial district.

New York's isn't alone. Chicago spent roughly $5 million on a 2,000-camera system. Washington planned to spend $9.8 million for surveillance cameras and sensors on a rail line near the Capitol. And Philadelphia too has increasingly relied on video surveillance.

In the UK, the network of roads in England and Wales had 6000 cameras by the end of 2004 realising approximately 15 million pounds in traffic fine revenues annually. New camera installations in an ongoing speed camera partnership programme cost them annually approx.10 million GBP.

Cameras for policing in Delhi, were first introduced in the Traffic Department over 35 years ago, and have been in use since the late 70s. The initial five cameras installed atop tall buildings like the Vikas Minar, the Delhi Police Headquarters, the NDMC tower, etc. helped monitor busy traffic junctions over IP Marg, Tilak Marg and Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, the Parliament Street, and Kasturba Gandhi Marg/Connaught Place near Statesman/Scindia House.

For reasons not particularly public, the scheme remained stagnant though for the next thirty odd years, at which stage through a burst of fresh initiative by Delhi’s then Traffic managers around the turn of the millennium, the first of three speed check cum red-light-jumping detection cameras came on the scene.

But before this, the traffic managers in the early ‘90s had also collaborated through a JICA programme with Mitsubishi engineers from Japan to draw up a comprehensive traffic management plan for the walled city of Delhi – which included imbedded and overhead censor operated 150 traffic monitoring cameras too – proposed to be funded totally by the Japanese Grant-in-aid programme with the Indian government. The scheme, which at first flew over the grey cells in the home ministry mandarins’ brains, and when that hurdle was crossed, ultimately got shot down and given the burial by the economic ministry – ultimate arbiters of such matters – on grounds of ‘traffic management’ being not listed among priorities like health, education, etc with greater claim to benefit from such programmes!

By 2003 three more speed cameras were in place, soon followed by more in other areas of policing: Extending the facility of camera surveillance from “traffic control exclusively” to the crime control arena, the areas to benefit with permanent camera fixtures were Parliament Street where political and highly volatile and controversial public agitations, demonstrations and related violence is the order of the day, and the highly vulnerable banking and jewellery market areas of Karol Bagh, the communally sensitive area of Jama Masjid and so on.

And then under the scheme for police modernisation and upgrading of police stations, CCTVs were introduced also for internal administration and management – in all police stations to facilitate monitoring by senior officials of important public dealing areas like the Duty Officers’ rooms, as also lock-ups, interrogation rooms and such other pockets the monitoring of which is considered crucial for management and administration.

In India we have been crying hoarse for years requesting the government to plough back the revenue raised through traffic fines into developing road safety infrastructure and into road safety projects including equipment. But the powers that be deny this happening, holding on to the high moral ground that fines collected should not be termed, equated with or treated as revenue! Delhi Traffic Police alone enrich the national exchequer with over 45-50crore rupees annually through traffic fines realised, while the total annual budget allocation for the traffic police which includes installation and maintenance of traffic signals is in the region of ten crores! While in some of our progressive States the local Governments have started allocating a percentage if not whole of the traffic fine collection for Road Safety, this long standing demand of the Traffic Police is yet to be conceded in centrally administered Delhi. If and when this becomes a reality, perhaps installing more cameras commensurate with the demand, should not really be a problem.

20.01.2007: Copyright © Maxwell Pereira: 0124-2360568, 4111026; 3725 Sector-23, Gurgaon-122017 Available also at - http://www. maxwellpereira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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