BARELY three weeks ago, a panic-stricken US national approached Railway Police Force (RPF) police sub-inspector Jayesh Solanki at the crowded Mumbai Central railway station. His friend, another US national, was “missing” from the railway platform. When Solanki rushed to view the footage from closed circuit cameras mounted at vantage positions inside the station, he couldn’t help grinning. The two Americans had been in different compartments of Jaipur-Mumbai train. And the two had gone looking for each other in different coaches at precisely the same time. The “missing” friend, the CCTV footage revealed, had hailed a cab and left upon not finding his friend. Using CCTV footage from elsewhere in the station, Solanki eventually managed to locate the cab and unite the travel companions.
Not so long ago, closed circuit cameras were never heard of on railway platforms. In 2006, there were six CCTV cameras in all in railway stations on Western Railway. These are now watching over commuters at every point — platforms, exits and even inside ladies’ compartments. While the cameras were installed following the serial train bombings in 2006, they have now begun to serve other purposes besides security.
They have captured railway policemen accepting bribes, leading to their suspension, helped trace bags people have forgotten on railway platforms, ensured prompt medical aid and reunited lost friends. In fact, the railways are now planning to use the camera network to keep an eye on staffers employed to maintain cleanliness of the railway premises.
Senior divisional security commissioner, RPF (Western Railway) Anup Shukla says, “The CCTV camera network has been helpful in more ways than one. While the basic purpose of installing the cameras was security, it has come in handy in several ways.” He adds, “We currently have 1,060 cameras that cover major spots on the platforms. We have, however, put in an application for more cameras to ensure the entire railway premises are covered by the camera network.”
At the north end of platform no 1 at Bandra railway station, Farooq Shaikh sits in front of the three LCD sets mounted on a wall. Each set has feed from 16 CCTV cameras attached across the railway station and the exits. “If I spot someone who has been run over, I immediately alert the station master so that help can reach the spot as soon as possible. Similarly, if there is a large crowd gathered on a platform, I alert one of our men to reach the spot immediately,” Shaikh says.
The CCTV footage comes in really handy for the Government Railway Police (GRP) and the city police teams. “On most occasions, you will find teams from the GRP or Mumbai police at our office. On several occasions, they go through the footage for hours, looking for a particular accused who may have come to commit a crime in a train,” one RPF official says. “On several occasions, it also helps as evidence when the police can show that an accused reached the scene of crime based on his location at the railway platform,” the official adds.
An RPF official says the CCTV network is increasingly a deterrent for criminals. “Just a sign of the spot being under surveillance works in keeping criminals under check,” he says.