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Soon, CCTV surveillance cameras at 202 railway stations

Integrated Security Systems (ISS), which includes CCTV surveillance cameras among other things, will soon be installed at 202 railway stations across the country. Railway stations situated in all metro cities will be surveilled using the system, which will be developed at a sanctioned cost of over Rs 400 crore. Apart from CCTVs, the Integrated Security Systems also include access control, personal and baggage screening system and bomb detection system. This information was revealed by Railways Minister Piyush Goyal in Parliament yesterday.

Major railway stations such as Delhi Junction, New Delhi, Srinagar (Jammu & Kashmir), and Kolkata (West Bengal) are already being surveilled by ISS. Going forward, it would also be active at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminal (Mumbai, Maharashtra), Chennai Central (Tamil Nadu) and Hyderabad (Telangana) railway stations.

Goyal revealed that CCTV cameras have, so far, been provided to over 139 railway stations, however, progress in this regard has been somewhat slow, given that over 133 railway stations were equipped with CCTVs back in November 2019 according to a statement by Goyal in the winter session of Parliament. In a separate response, Goyal had revealed that the Ministry was planning to equip all Tamil Nadu railway stations with CCTVs by March 2021.

Storage, sharing of data unclear: It was also not clear from Goyal’s response as to where the data collected by the CCTV cameras will be stored, or if it will be shared with other government agencies, or third parties. It is worth mentioning that such systems are operational when India doesn’t have a data protection law. Moreover, the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, which is currently being deliberated upon by a Joint Parliamentary Committee, has carved out exemptions for government agencies to adhere to provisions of the Bill.

Rising number of CCTVs, face recognition and biometric authentication systems

Indian Railways is planning a full-blown surveillance of railway stations. It is also in the process of installing Video Surveillance Systems (VSS), equipped with a facial recognition system, in 983 railway stations across the country. These surveillance systems will be installed at platforms, waiting halls, reservation counters, parking areas, main entrance/exit, foot over bridges, and booking offices.

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The Indian Railways is also using biometric token machines at 7 railway stations, including Lucknow Junction, Ahmedabad station, Mumbai Central and Bandra Terminus, for passengers boarding general coaches in 20 major trains. Ludhiana railway station is soon going to have Aadhaar-enabled biometric machines to keep a check on the railway staff at the general ticketing counters, and tackle the menace of touts at the ticketing booth. The Delhi Metro is also reportedly planning to link biometric information to Metro cards at its stations.

Delhi’s international airport is already running a pilot facial recognition system for Vistara passengers. Bangalore’s Kempegowda airport too has these systems in certain parts of the airport. Pune airport will also reportedly have these systems installed on its premises sometime this year.

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