After floating it for more than 11 months, RailTel, the Indian Railways PSU, has cancelled the Rs 1000 crore CCTV tender for a fourth time, a record number of discharge for a particular rail project for various reasons including pulls and pressures from within and outside.
In a recent letter to RailTel CMD, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion has advised RailTel to "cancel the tender in the present form" for non-compliance of public procurement with preference to Make-in-India order and has asked for framing the bidding document with "broad-based specifications."
Referring to the grievances received from various firms regarding the project, DIPP said, "It is stated that RailTel have neither reviewed restrictive conditions nor modified their tender conditions despite repeated references and meetings. It is stated that the eligibility condition based on excessive turnover is considered to be restrictive." Acknowledging the instruction from the concerned department, a senior RailTel official said the CCTV tender has been discharged and now a fresh one with broad-based specifications would be floated shortly.
RailTel, the public transporter’s telecom arm, had floated the tender on October 9, 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. However, the goings-on were getting murkier with many Chinese camera suppliers being shortlisted in the bidding process and many domestic players found it tough to enter the race, a RailTel source said. 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 the Railways. Earlier in July, NewsClick had reported that the Railways were to take a call on the CCTV project as many Chinese camera suppliers have emerged as serious contenders.
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. 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.
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RailTel took a long time for the technical evaluation of the shortlisted companies and finally scrapped it after getting specific orders from the government. The 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.
Following the standoff with China, 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 also banned over 100 China-linked apps, including the wildly popular TikTok.
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. Currently, more than 50 major stations, including New Delhi, are already equipped with the CCTV surveillance systems.