Indian Railways is getting ready to deploy a massive surveillance network at the country’s railway stations. The first phase of the project will be completed in time for the beginning of next year, and will cover 756 stations located throughout the country.
The actual installation will be carried out by Rail Tel, with the blessing of the Ministry of Railways. The agency has set aside government-provided Nirbhaya funds for the rollout of the project, which will extend to the rest of the country’s railway stations in its second phase. The Railway Protection Force (RPF) will be tasked with monitoring the system once everything is up and running.
According to administrators, the new system will improve security at transit hubs. The cameras will be installed throughout each station to allow RPF personnel to track someone from the parking lot to the boarding platform, and at every point in between. The IP cameras also come with video analytics and facial recognition capabilities to help automate some surveillance functions. For example, the cameras will send an alert to security staff whenever they spot someone on a criminal watch list, or if someone tries to enter a restricted part of the station.
The tech can be further refined to watch for people with certain attributes, or to keep an eye out for loitering and other suspicious behaviors. The live feeds will be streamed to local RPF security posts, and to centralized control rooms that keep tabs on larger divisional and zonal regions. Meanwhile, those with the proper authorization will be able to access the entire system from a web browser through a Network Management System dashboard.
The footage from the CCTV cameras will be stored for 30 days, though the RPF may hold on to the footage from select high-priority feeds for an even greater amount of time. Railway platforms will be outfitted with two panic buttons that passengers can use to notify the RF about a possible security incident.
It is worth noting that there has been some pushback against facial recognition from the Indian public, primarily due to privacy and security concerns. In 2021, Indian Railways installed nearly 500 facial recognition cameras from Russia’s NtechLabs, a company whose technology has been used for stalking and that has reportedly offered members of the public access to its systems on a pay-for-play basis. It’s unclear if Indian Railways is still working with NtechLabs for the expanded project.
July 8, 2022 – by Eric Weiss