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At Kumbh, AI-equipped cameras to zoom in on those without masks

Officials said over 350 CCTV cameras have been installed at different locations in the mela area, with about 100 of these equipped with sensors that generate an alert when the camera captures the image of a person without a mask.

Written by Lalmani Verma | Dehradun |
Updated: April 12, 2021 7:34:46 am
Very difficult to ensure social distancing at ghats: Kumbh Mela officialDevotees gather at Haridwar’s Har Ki Pauri Ghat on Sunday to offer prayers during the Kumbh Mela. (PTI)

With hordes turning up for the Kumbh mela in Haridwar amid a surge in Covid cases, the Uttarakhand Police is using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to zoom in on those not wearing masks.

Officials said over 350 CCTV cameras have been installed at different locations in the mela area, with about 100 of these equipped with sensors that generate an alert when the camera captures the image of a person without a mask. Being deployed for the first time at the Kumbh mela in Haridwar, the AI-equipped cameras also generate an alert when sites identified as vulnerable for stampede — Har-ki-Pauri, Subhash ghat, Brahmakund, Malviya Dweep — see a higher crowd density. The cameras are also being used to keep a count of vehicles at parking lots and to spot objects lying unattended for more than 10 minutes.

kumbh mela 2021 Devotees perform Aarti at Har Ki Paudi during Mahakumbh at Haridwar in Uttrakhand on March 12, 2021. (Express Photo by Praveen Khanna)

In case one of the cameras spots someone without a mask, it relays an alert to personnel deployed at the police surveillance control room in Mela Bhawan near Har Ki Pauri, who share the location of the violator to the nearest enforcement teams. The person is handed, besides a free mask, punishment as per rules.

While the Kumbh Mela formally started on April 1, Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat inaugurated the control room on Friday, April 9.

Officials said 278 of the 350 cameras are fixed ones and 22 of the pan-tilt-zoom variety. Ten cameras have been installed at entry points for automatic number plate recognition of vehicles.

Kumbh Mela IG Sanjay Gunjyal said monitoring of mela areas with AI-enabled cameras has been effective this Covid season.

For example, on April 2, over 1,500 people were issued challans for not wearing a mask, of whom around 350 were caught on camera in just four hours. The cameras also spotted two unattended bags.

Explained

Swelling numbers

The Kumbh mela sees a daily average of over three lakh devotees at the various ghats in Haridwar, but that number is expected to swell during the shahi snans on April 12, 14 and 27. Around 32 lakh devotees had reached Haridwar for the first shahi snan on the occasion of Mahashivaratri on March 11.

“When a site identified as vulnerable gets crowded beyond 75 per cent of its capacity, the control room gets an alert, at which point, entry of people to these sites will be immediately stopped,” said Mukesh Thakur, Additional SP in charge of the Police Surveillance Control Room at Kumbh.

“A trial of these cameras equipped with AI capabilities had been done during the first shahi snan on March 11. Now it will be used during the entire Kumbh Mela period,” he said.

The Kumbh mela sees a daily average of over three lakh devotees at the various ghats in Haridwar, but that number is expected to swell during the shahi snans on April 12, 14 and 27. Around 32 lakh devotees had reached Haridwar for the first shahi snan on the occasion of Mahashivaratri on March 11.

About 10,000 security personnel will be deployed to control and supervise the crowd in Haridwar and Rishikesh. The Uttarakhand High Court had recently directed the state government to depute people at the entry point of each ghat to screen pilgrims and visitors, and to ensure that they use sanitisers and wear masks.

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