Mumbai: MSRDC too broke to install explosives scanners at Sea Link

It has decided not to float tenders inviting companies to put in the two Rs 20-crore detectors, because its losses have crossed Rs 150 crore; police and security agencies had recommended their installation as a safety measure

Pecuniary troubles have stopped the installation of devices to detect presence of explosives on the Bandra-Worli Sea Link (BWSL). The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), realising it is up to its neck in losses and borrowings, has decided not to float tenders to get the detectors installed.

While there will not be any explosives detectors on the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, 80 CCTV cameras keep watch on it 24x7. The cameras can record footage even in the night. File pic
While there will not be any explosives detectors on the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, 80 CCTV cameras keep watch on it 24x7. The cameras can record footage even in the night. File pic

At a time when the Coast Guard at Porbander claims to have averted a potential threat when an alleged terrorist boat blew itself up while being chased, the BWSL, which has always been identified as being on terrorists’ radar, will not be getting the explosives scanners worth Rs 20 crore.

An MSRDC official, who refused to be identified, said, “We had plans to invite fresh tenders for providing and installing two explosives scanners at BWSL. But, as of now, we have put the plan on hold as the project does not seem financially viable.”

MSRDC sources told this newspaper that according to audit figures, the MSRDC’s losses stood at a whopping Rs 150 crore at the end of financial year 2011-12, with a debt of nearly Rs 3,000 crore.

Fizzing out
After the 2008 terror attacks, then Police Commissioner D Sivanandan, had written to the MSRDC in 2009 asking for high-quality security gadgets to be installed on the Sea Link.

The letter contained a list of recommendations worked out in close coordination with the Mumbai police, security agencies and MSRDC, and included the explosives detectors as well as CCTV cameras. The two scanners were to be placed at either end of the bridge.

In 2011, an explosives detector manufactured by BHEL was used for trial, which could scan vehicles as well as persons. Since Indian laws do not permit body scans on health grounds, people had to come out of their vehicles for it to scan. This would cause quite a delay.

MSRDC got around to awarding a contract to install the explosive scanners to Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) over two years back. MSRDC officials stated that BEL had committed to completing the job by the end of 2013. Since the firm didn’t make good on its promise, the contract was cancelled in April 2014.

MSRDC had planned to invite fresh tenders for the project within six months, but its financial woes have thrown cold water on these plans. The bridge presently has a network of high-definition security cameras, which come in the wake of the series of suicides seen in September last year (see box).

CCTV cameras on sea link
After a spate of suicides in the month of September last year, Mumbai Entry Point Ltd (MEPL), which is the authorised toll-collecting agency for the Sea Link, installed a network of 80 high-definition CCTV cameras on the bridge in November. The cameras can record footage at night, and a control room monitors feed 24x7.

The positioning of the cameras ensures the entire stretch of the bridge is covered, and if anybody stops their vehicle on the bridge which is not permitted the control room immediately informs the concerned authorities, who reach the spot within minutes. The bridge only had 6 cameras earlier, none of which worked.

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