Although the data collected by surveillance systems will be stored only for 30 days, people in railway stations might not even be aware that their facial data has been recorded.
Out of the 983 railway stations across the country that were selected four years ago to be brought under facial recognition-equipped CCTV surveillance, the work has been completed in only 310 stations as of now, Ashwini Vaishnaw, the Minister of Railways, Communications, and Information Technology told the Parliament.
Why it matters? The Indian Railways has been planning and implementing an extensive CCTV surveillance project for 983 railway stations across the country. These surveillance systems will be installed at platforms, waiting halls, reservation counters, parking areas, main entrance/exit points, foot-over bridges, and booking offices. It is worth mentioning that such systems are being introduced when India doesn’t have a data protection law. Moreover, the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, which may be introduced in the Parliament in the Winter Session, has carved out exemptions for government agencies under the provisions of the Bill.
“In order to expedite the work for provision of video surveillance system at railway stations, it has been divided between Zones and RailTel, a public sector undertaking of Indian railways,” Vaishnaw said in response to a question by Shiv Sena Lok Sabha MP Rahul Ramesh Shewale.
Zone-wise breakup of CCTV cameras at railway stations
In this project, four types of HD cameras are being used —
- Dome type (for indoor areas)
- Bullet type (for platforms)
- Pan Tilt Zoom type (for parking areas)
- Ultra HD- 4k cameras (for crucial locations)
Where will the data be stored?
In 2020, the Ministry of Railways in a statement said that data collected as part of this exercise will be stored for 30 days for playback, analysis, and investigation purposes. The Ministry also said that “important videos” can be stored for “longer”, without specifying what potentially constitutes “important videos”. It also did not clarify the exact duration for which these videos could be stored beyond the 30-day limit. The Ministry, however, specified that at least 5 TB worth of data will be collected by these surveillance systems, each month.
Apart from this, Vaishnaw while responding to a question regarding the safety of passengers trains, informed that "fixed CCTV cameras have been provided in 4,141 coaches and 814 railway compartments for enhancing the security of passengers."
Surveillance at several railway stations, including Bengaluru, is already on
In 2020, the Ministry had said such systems were already installed at 81 different railway stations. The South Western Railway (SWR) has installed these surveillance systems at 17 locations including Bengaluru railway station with 71 cameras, Yeshwantpur station with 35 cameras, and Mysuru station with 34 cameras.
Other major stations on the South Western Railway such as Bengaluru Cantonment, Vasco-Da Gama, Ballari, and Belagavi have also commissioned the video surveillance system. Security personnel can monitor these cameras not only from station control rooms but also from central security control rooms located at divisional headquarters in Hubballi, Mysuru, and Bengaluru, the Ministry said.
The video surveillance system has also been installed at 10 railway stations of Western Railway including Bhavnagar Terminus, Udhna, Valsad, Veraval, Nagda, Navsari, Vapi, Viragam, Rajkot, and Gandhidham, as per the release.
100 percent success rate of facial recognition?
In a separate press release from January 9, 2020, South Western Railway said that artificial intelligence-equipped facial recognition systems were tested on a pilot basis at the Bengaluru division between May 2019 and October 2019. They claimed that these systems “succeeded” in demonstrating “100% acquisition of faces” and “100% matching accuracy”.
Suitable technology without interrupting huge crowd flow at railway stations, but succeeding in 100 % acquisition of faces and 100% matching with accuracy was demonstrated — The Indian Railways in a press release
This suggests that several people whose faces would have been registered in the facial recognition system might not even be aware that their biometric data has been recorded by the railway station, given that SWR said in the release that “no person will be stopped for a facial scan, yet 100 percent faces will be acquired and matched (sic)”.
Full Text of Question and Answer
Will the Minister of RAILWAYS be pleased to state: (a) whether more than four years after a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Indian Railways and RailTel for the installation of surveillance cameras at 983 stations across the country to enhance safety of women passengers has derailed and if so, the details thereof;
(b) whether there have been dozens of cases of crimes against women, including murders, sexual assaults, attacks and robbery in railway stations or trains during the last five years;
(c) if so, whether the purposes of setting up surveillance cameras has been defeated over the years;
(d) if so, the response of the Union Government thereon;
(e) whether the Union Government has investigated the causes of derailment of the MoU and if so, the outcome thereof and the measures taken by the Union Government in this regard; and
(f) the steps taken by the Union Government to give priority for installation of surveillance cameras to enhance safety of women passengers?
(a) No, Sir. Out of 983 stations, 310 stations have been provided with Video Surveillance System. At remaining stations, provisioning of CCTV is in progress.
Zone-wise details of 310 stations is appended.
(b) to (d): Policing on Railways being a State subject, prevention of crime, registration of cases, their investigation and maintenance of law & order in Railway premises as well as on running trains are
the statutory responsibility of the State Governments, which they discharge through Government Railway Police (GRP)/District Police. However, Railway Protection Force (RPF) supplements the efforts of GRP to provide better protection and security of passenger area & passengers and for matters connected therewith.
Cases of Indian Penal Code (IPC) crimes including crime against women passengers in trains and at railway stations are registered and investigated by the concerned Government Railway Police/District Police. Railways does not maintain any data on Indian Penal Code (IPC) crimes. Whenever any information about status of crime on Railways is sought, State GRP is requested to provide the information. Based on the data provided by Government Railway Police, the number of cases of crimes against women passengers including rape, murder, assault and eve-teasing in trains and at railway stations registered, have shown a decreasing trend since the year 2018 which was in increasing trend in the year 2016 to 2018. Also, there is significant decrease in the number of cases of Robbery in the year 2020 as compared to previous years i.e. from 2016 to 2019.
However, the following steps are also being taken by the Railways in coordination with GRP for Safety and security of passengers in trains and at stations:-
(i) RPF has taken several measures to provide better security of women passengers. An Pan-Indian initiative “Meri Seheli” was launched by RPF on 17.10.2020 with objective to provide enhanced safety and security to lady passengers travelling by trains for their entire journey i.e. from the originating station to destination station. The focus is to provide the security to lady passengers especially those travelling alone and to instill a sense of security in them. Teams of lady officers and staff have been formed who are well trained and briefed about the objective.
(ii) On vulnerable and identified routes/section, trains are escorted by Railway Protection Force in addition to trains escorted by Government Railway Police of different States daily.
(iii) Security Help Line Number 139 (Tollfree) is made operational (24X7) over Indian Railway for security related assistance to passengers in distress.
(iv) Fixed CCTV cameras have been provided in 4141 coaches and 814 Railway stations for enhancing security of passengers.
(v) Drives are conducted against entry of male passengers into Railway compartments reserved for women passengers.
(vi) Exclusive unreserved coaches/compartment for female passengers in EMU (Electrical Multiple Unit)/DMU (Diesel Multiple Unit)/MMTS (Multi Modal Transport System) trains & local passenger trains depending upon demand pattern as well as availability of accommodation.
(vii) Running of ladies special EMU/MEMU/MMTS service on the suburban section of Mumbai, Kolkata, Secunderabad, and Chennai as well as on the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) Sections.
(viii) Ladies Special trains running in Metropolitan cities are being escorted by lady RPF personnel. In other trains, where escorts are provided, the train escorting parties have been briefed to keep extra vigil on the lady passengers travelling alone, ladies coaches en-route and at halting stations.
(ix) For safety of ladies passengers, Emergency Talk System and Closed Circuit Television Surveillance Cameras have been provided in ladies compartment/coaches of all newly manufactured Electrical Multiple Unit (EMU) and Air-conditioned rakes of Kolkata Metro. This system has also been provided in all newly manufactured Air-conditioned EMU rakes and Electric Train Sets.
(x) With a view to further fortify the security system, Flasher lights have also been provided in ladies coaches in EMU rakes in some Zonal Railways. These lights start blinking and buzzer will start sounding once the alarm chain in pulled and it will continue till resetting of alarm chain.
(e) & (f) In order to expedite the work for provision of Video Surveillance System at Railway stations, it has been divided between some Zones & RailTel, a Public Sector Undertaking of Indian Railways.
- Facial recognition based surveillance systems to be installed at 983 railway stations across India
- Soon, CCTV surveillance cameras at 202 railway stations
- Railways using biometric token systems at 7 railway stations including Lucknow, Mumbai Central
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