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CCTV scam making its way in Maharashtra

Whosoever’s government comes to power in Maharashtra, they will definitely announce the installation of the CCTV camera’s in its capital and adjacent cities looking at the security concerns. The project was first proposed during the earlier Congress-NCP government after the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai and has been delayed since then. It could not move ahead despite bids being invited four times. Now, BJP is in power and has announced a project to install over 6000 CCTV cameras in Mumbai at a cost of Rs. 949 crore to beef up surveillance in crucial places of the city which they claim will be complete by September, 2016.

The BJP-led government, after coming to power in 2014, formed a high-power committee to push the project and contract for the same was signed in February, 2015. Mumbai is been divided into two zones for the completion of the project wherein around 1,400 CCTV cameras in the south zone (comprising areas in Central and South Mumbai), it may take some longer time. Anyway, if time factor is matter then it’s OK, but if we focus on the costing of the project then we can smell something is cooking in. Intuition of some scams is coming in the state. If we do some Mathematics of Grade II in this then the economics of CCTV camera aren’t stacking up, Rs. 950cr for 6000 CCTV cameras – approximately 15.8 lakhs per camera, around $26,000 USD per CCTV. Unless, they are going to produce some IMAX 3D quality images and are planning to stream live to the public or if they are planning to construct buildings to attach the camera on it which looks like a scam at the outset. BJP Government in Maharashtra will spend 15.8 lakhs for one CCTV camera is beyond the understanding of common man.

There are hundreds of cases, where the suspects are seen on CCTV footage submitted by the complainant to Police, but still the cases are undetected. One such example is, diamond worth of crores robbed from Chira Bazaar, the jeweller gave the CCTV footage to police, the person was clearly visible but still no one was arrested in this case. We required manpower in police department and upgraded methods of investigations. Over hyped Mumbai police failed to detect many crucial cases. Anyway, huge manpower is required for maintenance and surveillance of these CCTV cameras.

If we assume price of Rs. 10000 per camera then 6000 cameras will cost Rs. 60 crores. Add 60 crores of control electronics and accessories. Add another 60 crores for civil, electrical and mechanical works. Double this figure and round off to 400 crores. Still, why 949 crores should be spend on this and who will get this additional burden?  L&T and Maharashtra Government both should explain it. Officials from the Mumbai Police department, MCGM chief Ajoy Mehta along with technical representatives have completed the survey of South Mumbai. Soon the MCGM is going to dig the roads, erect poles. Mumbai roads are already suffering with pothole issues. Monsoon is on the way, in such crises the road digging would be another liability and will cause inconvenience to the commuters. I hope government will not impose further burden by digging roads in monsoon months.

With many such flaws and challenges, installing CCTV seems to be a big gimmick. Meanwhile, let them transparently explain what the capital cost is and what the recurring revenue expenditure is. If the government has specified the solution and therefore it is a costly solution then the decision should be reviewed. We also need to know what the specifications of these cameras are. What would be the storage capacity of the hard disk – 60 days, 90 days, 120 days or permanently? What kind of surveillance center will be established? How many metres it can capture clearly? Is it going to be a real-time response center with some number of resources stationed 24 by 7 or everything will be stored data? How was the evaluation of the successful vendor/service provider done? Was it techno-commercial or was it only the least cost provider or was it a choice made by the government? These entire questions have to be answered. Otherwise doubts will remain.

If we look in the past, in 2014, 6000 number of CCTV cameras then government planned to install across Mumbai, at the estimated cost of the project worth Rs. 1,200cr. Same year, Supreme Court sought responses from the Centre, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd on a PIL seeking CBI probe into allocation of broadband wireless access spectrum for 4G services to Jio which allegedly caused Rs. 40,000 crore loss to the exchequer. In 2014, the Congress-NCP government’s plans to set up a hi-tech CCTV network across the city got delayed as bidding firms wanted to use 3G networks while cops wanted to lay an optical fibre network, which they feel is more secure. This was always an ambitious project of state governments (then and now) to lay a surveillance web of CCTV cameras across the city. However, the project got stuck between different lobbies: one that is backing the third-generation wireless technology or 3G to connect the entire network of cameras to the central server, and another rooting for the traditional optical fibre network. It could not move ahead despite bids being invited four times.

Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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