New Delhi: The move to install CCTV cameras at stations and coaches, which will also have facial recognition capabilities to make rail premises secure, is getting murkier with many Chinese camera suppliers being shortlisted in the bidding process.
Indian Railways will have to take a call on the issue as this development comes at a time when a face-off with China is continuing at the border and many Chinese companies are being barred from Indian projects.
RailTel, the public transporter’s telecom arm, had floated the tender in 2019 for the fourth time after the bid getting discharged thrice before for various reasons and subsequently, about eight to nine companies were in the fray.
The Rs 1,000 crore project entails installation of nearly one lakh CCTV cameras at more than 6,000 railway stations and 7,000 coaches.
While companies including some PSUs are in contention for installing and integrating the Internet Protocol (IP)-based video surveillance system (VSS) at stations and coaches, many Chinese camera suppliers are becoming serious contenders for the project, which is a cause of concern for railways.
Since India and China are carrying out disengagement of troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, where 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a violent clash with the Chinese troops last month, it is learnt that RailTel has written a letter to the Railways as a decision has to be taken on the CCTV project.
Following the standoff, the national transporter had cancelled a Rs 471-crore signalling and telecommunication work for a stretch of 417 km on the Kanpur-Deen Dayal Upadhyay section by a Chinese company and also scrapped a tender for thermal screening cameras after Indian vendors complained of the bid document favouring the Chinese.
India has recently banned 59 China-linked apps, including the wildly popular TokTok.
However, RailTel CMD Puneet Chawla said "Currently, the technical evaluation of the shortlisted companies is underway and it would take some time to complete it."
Asked about the Chinese companies being shortlisted in the project, Chawla said "We are going by the ‘Make in India’ criteria formulated by the government."
Admitting delay in implementing the project, he said "Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it got delayed. But now we are hopeful of doing it shortly."
Asked further whether he had written to the Railways on the Chinese cameras issue, he declined to comment.
After getting discharged many times, the Rs 1,000 crore project now seems to be jinxed as the Railways has to take a call on how to go about it.
In a related development in the rail sector, a Chinese joint venture company got shortlisted in the Vande Bharat train project for which the bid was opened on July 10.
According to railways, the Chinese JV would not be able to qualify under the ‘Make in India’ criteria.
The Rs 1,000 crore tender for closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras is crucial for railways as it aims at strengthening video surveillance systems in coaches and stations across the country.
These powerful IP cameras will not only record movements at stations, but will also be equipped with facial recognition software, motion detectors, quick review, and intrusion detection. The recording will be scrutinised round-the-clock by security personnel of the Railway Protection Force and Government Railway Police.
There are more than 50 major stations, including New Delhi, which are already equipped with the CCTV surveillance systems.
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