It doesn’t require any ingenuity to gauge that the end of Ajmal Qasab doesn’t imply the end of terror, or the threat to India. Mumbai’s vulnerability was betrayed on 26/11 — the fourth anniversary is two days away — and assurances were given in the aftermath by authorities about better preparedness, more security and tighter vigilance.
Few, if any, of these promises have been kept. A case in point is the proposed video surveillance network that has remained practically pigeonholed for years now. Irrespective of when the plan is finally implemented, the inordinate delay has already ensured that the estimated cost has gone up from the initial Rs 300 crore to Rs 864 crore.
According to sources, 31 firms have responded to the request for proposal (RFP) issued by the state government in the last week of September for the CCTV project. Currently, the state home department is in the process of clearing the queries raised by the companies. Out of the 800 questions, 88 are yet to be answered to satisfy the interested parties, said a senior functionary of the Democratic Front government.
The queries pertain to the legal, technical and financial aspects of the bidding process. Countering the criticism from various quarters for the delay in finalisation of the process, a senior government official said on condition of anonymity that the task of clarifying on these queries has been a time-consuming one.
Potential bidders will be given tender documents once the process is complete and later papers submitted by them will be scrutinised. This exercise may take a month or two, sources added. Bidders will have to design, supply, contract, and implement the CCTV project. As per the previous schedule, the process of finalisation of bids should have started by November 17, but the 800 queries raised by the companies have consumed a lot of time and, hence, the whole programme has been delayed, said a government official.
As reported by MiD DAY on August 4 (‘Mumbai to have 6,000 more CCTV cameras? Wait just got longer’) the bidding process had to be cancelled following a controversy that led to appointment of a high-level committee – headed by chief secretary J K Banthia – that recommended a fresh tendering exercise.
On the other hand, the modernisation cell of Mumbai police is yet to compile a list of existing CCTV cameras in the city. “We are yet to update our data. Each police station and vital installations in the city have their own individual setup of CCTVs. No fresh lot has been ordered,” said inspector Pagare, who is in-charge of the modernisation cell.
Echoing the same line, his senior, Joint Commissioner of Police (administration) Hemant Nagrale, said, “The proposal for the new cameras under the modernisation plan is still pending with the government. At present, the traffic department has its own CCTV network in place. But even this is not suitably functional.”
This means the city is at the mercy of a mere 100 cameras instated to regulate traffic movements. “Around 40 per cent of these cameras, which were installed in 2006, are out of order. Though we do carry out maintenance and repairs at regular intervals, we are unable to do much as these cameras only have a shelf life of five to six years,” he added.