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Technology can help improve India’s conviction rate

July 17, 2007

India has a fairly low conviction rate for all crimes, including terrorist crimes. Right now its terrorism that is uppermost on our mind. I for one just cannot accept the fact that a year has passed since the Mumbai blasts but the culprits have still not been brought to trial and not all those charged are the bombers. While I have faith in the ability of our police…I know they are not using modern forensic methods on a significant scale….and I also know they are not using surveillance cameras.

And well, after reading how the U.K. police managed to nab the suspects of the recent Glasglow bomb blasts, I felt we are lagging behind quite a lot. As this report says:

British police quickly closed in on suspects in the failed bomb plots in London and Scotland — only the latest terror investigation to display the crucial role of the country’s vast network of surveillance cameras… Britain has about 4 million closed-circuit security cameras, and police say the average Briton is on as many as 300 cameras every day… the system is winning converts in the United States and Europe.

This report talks of how “cameras helped track suspects in the car bomb plots last month, and in the London subway bombings in 2005.”

And this one:

The British system was developed in the 1970s and ’80s with little public discussion, in response to attacks by the Irish Republican Army. By the 1990s, technology improvements made it a key tool in the security cordon around central London known as the “ring of steel.”

India too has been suffering terrorism for almost 30 years….but we haven’t done any of this. If India is not taking tips from these successes, its certainly not because we lack the funds…we spend millions of dollars on defense equipment. Well, the reason why we are not doing it is not very palatable – the great Indian bureaucracy! This Indian Express report says:

Red tape is shunting around Railways’ plans to enhance security at Mumbai’s train stations after the July 11 serial blasts last year…. a year on, the proposal to install 530 CCTV cameras across the entire suburban network is far from being implemented…the Railways is scrambling to take the 530 CCTVs on rent. This follows a late realisation that it is much easier to hire the devices than get the Rs 45 crore proposal through the circuitous corridors of Rail Bhavan.

Also, plans to buy X-ray baggage inspection machines, explosive vapour detectors, hand-held metal detectors, doorframe metal detectors haven’t seen the light of day as the proposals have not yet approved! There were also plans afoot to set up bomb detection and disposal squads and getting sniffer dogs…but this hasn’t yet happened! And nor has the proposal to get extra security staff.

And all this while the rest of the world is not satisfied with their level of security. For example the U.K is gearing up to improve its camera surveillance. The plan is to make digital cameras the norm as these give better performance and can also be networked together. And America could not be far behind could it? Taking a tip from Britain, the U.S. is installing 3000 surveillance cameras by 2010 in New York’s city’s Lower Manhattan area. Countries like Turkey, Germany, France and the Netherlands are going in for extensive use of surveillance cameras as well…all of them following Britain’s example.

Even if surveillance cameras do not stop terrorism – they do tell us a lot about who did it and how. And while some people in some countries may feel the cameras are an intrusion into one’s privacy, frankly I don’t care about the privacy angle. We have lost our privacy anyway. Every time I step out of the house, enter a market, a mall or a cinema theatre, I and hundreds of fellow Indians have to go though metal detectors and our bags are searched. At times this security gets intrusive…but I don’t mind any level of security as long as its effective.

Related Reading: What are the reasons for our terrorism deaths?
Technology can help us strengthen our anti-terrorism infrastructure
Some reasons why educated people can get sucked into terrorism
Poor security in our country

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. B Chopra permalink
    July 17, 2007 11:53 am

    Technology exists & easily available to everyone. A CCTV costs less than Rs. 100.

    For Govt. It’s just a matter of raising a single tender for which many vendors are there who are literally dying to get orders.. he he 🙂

    and off course for Govt. it’s gonna be ROI based practice.. Like Delhi METRO

    I think It’s matter of Discipline & Process that Govt. Dept. employs.. not just technology..

    I was talking to a senior IAS officer in Police Dept. to adapt a Automated foolproof fingerprint based attendance system in all police dept… and Guess.. what will be response?. he he

  2. July 18, 2007 4:24 am

    //Britain has about 4 million closed-circuit security cameras//
    now thats a enormously huge number and for the size of britain its too much. But in india will it be possible to watch the whole country on the tv?? I know the answer … and the next argument would be, lets watch the important places … again all the parties will come n fight that which places and which not. Red tape is nothing new in india .. but about the mumbai train stations, i think churchgate already have got the cctv installed. adn from the news, BEST is also going on cctv soon.
    I am sure it would be a boost to the conviction rate … but economic feasibility is a very important question.

  3. July 18, 2007 7:24 am

    We are too huge a country to do it all over the place….but certainly we can afford to do it in important places as that is where terrorists strike. That is where they get the maximum number of casualties. And terrorists usually don’t care about being caught…there want to commit suicide…
    Actually its not the cameras per se that i doubt whether we can buy, what I doubt is whether our security people will willingly go through hours and hours of television footage minutely….its a very tedious job!

  4. July 18, 2007 11:27 am

    I am not able to find it but there was a news on ibnlive about the security changes on the churchgate and there are 2-3 policemen monitoring the cctv footage 24*7 and if they doubt anyone then there are random checks (which happens atleast 3-4 times a day!!)
    well i agree to your point …. but i guess i can be happy with whatever have changed even after the strong redtape.

  5. B Chopra permalink
    July 18, 2007 11:54 am

    4 million closed-circuit security cameras costs max Rs. 40 Crore.. Man!! It’s not for big amount for our govt. Just compare & see what’s profit of railway. hmmm.. where that money is going??

    Budget on installing CCTV or any other security equipment is not a BIG question.. challenge is abt that tedious job of monitoring..

    For your information CCTV is installed in almost all major railway stations to a basic level.. But they aren’t being used efficiently. For example.. To my knowledge Bangalore railways CCTV project is been executed officially long back before 2 years… unfortunately our people aren’t using it properly.. First of all – Admin people are lazy & I doubt if they do their duty – atleast 50% effectivaly??

    Is performance being measured accurately? Why people say Govt. job is safest job?

    I agree with you Amit – The recent developments are much better in India now. There is tremendous pressure and Actions are being taken.. not quick but quiet better now.. All b’coz of Media & Education in people.

    We can Hope to see more changes in future.

  6. July 19, 2007 9:57 pm

    When we can’t solve the root cause we have to adopt such measures. But why can’t we solve the root cause?

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