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Why CCTV cameras are still not watching over you

In the aftermath of the terror attacks in 2008, the city’s keepers promised its stricken people a comprehensive network of CCTV cameras to watch over them and prevent yet another bloodbath. Four years and several other bomb blasts later, the plan is still struggling to take off, and is now confined to a 400-page long tender ambitiously titled Supply, Installation and Maintenance of CCTV Surveillance system for City of Mumbai.

What’s more, potential bidders speaking to MiD DAY off the record have made the gloomy prediction that several more anniversaries of the 26/11 carnage are likely to pass before the CCTVs actually start capturing feed. They have attributed the inordinate delay to glaring oversights and miscalculations on part of the government.

Though the government has finally floated tenders for the implantation of the project after an aborted attempt last year, several discrepancies have left the bidders feeling ill at ease about putting forward their proposals. Many of the bidders have even written to the state government asking that the deadline for submission of bids be extended to December 1, so they can get a clear idea of what lies in store for them.

Timeline troubles
The tender was floated on September 25 this year. Dates for meetings to discuss queries on the bids were deferred, leaving bidders in the lurch. While a deadline of December 1 has already been set for submission of bids, bidders still haven’t received all the responses to their queries. Due to this, they want the deadline postponed.

“We have requested the government to extend the date of submission. Most of the specifications are the same as in the tender floated last year, which was allotted and later cancelled,” said a bidder, who did not wish to be identified.

Not adding up
Bidders also claim that it is impossible for them to accommodate some of the terms and conditions set out by the tender, unless the project cost is increased by a huge margin. While the government has publicly announced a budgetary provision of Rs 800 crore for the project, some of the requirements of the tender are sure to take the cost far beyond this estimate. No budget is mentioned in the tender.

To begin with, bidders believe that it isn’t feasible for them to meet the Service Level Agreement (SLA), which says that in the event of a technical problem or a major grid failure, it is the bidder who has to suffer deductions in payment for the time lag in transmission. The bidders claim that it is impossible for them to have such an extensive power back-up system in place. A UPS system will only escalate the cost of the project.

The tender doesn’t allow for any kind of consortium partnership with any telecom company, only allowing services to be taken from them. In the event that connectivity is disrupted owing to a technical snag, or any failing on part of the telecom company, it is the bidder who will have to bear losses.

The government expects the camera feed to be transmitted via satellite to the mobile vans. This will require extensive synchronising efforts — the satellite bandwidth is only 0.5 mbps and for the images to be transferred the mobile vans need to be stationary and pointing towards the satellite. The cameras however require a minimum of 2.4 mbps bandwidth. There is an obvious discrepancy between the bandwidth speeds.

Money matters
Payment is also a contentious issue, with the government saying it will only make an upfront payment of 20 per cent of the project value, and that the remaining will be paid in 20 equal quarterly installments. Bidders say that usually, the upfront payment ranges from 50 to 70 per cent of the cost.

Not just that, the tender states that command centres, furniture, fixtures, marble flooring, false ceilings, painting, chairs, doors and locks, biometric systems, DG set, AC and UPS system should be included in the cost of the CCTV camera installation. This is not profitable, feel bidders.

Govt clarifies
A senior official of the Home Department confirmed with MiD DAY that letters have been received from the bidders asking for the deferral of the date of submission of bids from December 1, and that the same is being considered by the state government.

Asked about the issues raised by the bidders, he said, “We have already received 860 questions from those who have taken the tender documents and we are trying to respond to their queries. I am not in a position to discuss anything more. It is better that bidders who are skeptical about the project do not submit their proposals,” said a senior home department official.

He added, “The tender will be processed by people who have experience in Information Technology and are well-versed with the functioning of the entire system.

State Chief Secretary Jayant Kumar Banthia could not be reached for comment.

Greay expectations
6,000 cameras have to be installed on 1,800 poles at 1,500 junctions across the island. 200 of these will be traffic cameras with number plate recognition which will be installed at all five entry points to the city. Three command-monitoring centres will be set up at the commissioner’s office, Crawford Market, Traffic Headquarters, Worli and Kalina. Centres will also be established at Mantralaya and MCGM where senior bureaucrats and ministers can get spontaneous updates on their screens. Also regional police offices, zonal DCP office, local police stations will get their local area connections for better policing.

Junctions where CCTV will be installed 
Saat Rasta lock-up junction, Gateway of India junction near Taj Mahal Hotel, King’s Circle, Churchgate junction, Sahar road junction touching the Western Express Highway, MTNL junction in Goregaon, Lalbaug junction and Kalanagar junction  

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