As public places in India gear up for the post-COVID world where thermal cameras detecting body temperature of people in crowded areas will be the new normal, the Indian Railways has chanced upon a way to, in fact, make some money out of this.
In a pilot project in Bihar starting Monday, train passengers in Patna Railway Station will be scanned by a thermal camera for symptoms like fever and whether they are wearing masks etc. But in this case, Railways will actually earn money for the use of that camera, paid by a businessman authorised to sell disposable blankets, quilts, sanitisers and masks, to the same passengers from a dedicated kiosk.
This unique “earning contract” is the first of its kind in the country wherein the transporter does not have to shell out money to purchase expensive thermal cameras to screen the hundreds of passengers coming to the station.
The contract is for the setting up of the stall for linen. One of the conditions is that the contractor will also install a thermal camera—with defined specifications for accuracy— whose feed will be monitored by railway staff, like the Railway Protection Force, stationed on the ground and scan for alerts like people coming in with COVID symptoms especially fever. Railways will earn around Rs 1.41 lakh from one stall per year. Railway officials in Delhi said this is a new non-fare-revenue idea.
“We will replicate this in other busy stations like Patliputra, Danapur, Rajendra Nagar etc. Since we are not providing any linen item on trains due to COVID-related restrictions, people may want to buy these items. Along with this, we are ensuring that the vendor installs a thermal camera so that we get to scan the passengers. All this will not cost Railways anything,” said Sunil Kumar, Divisional Railway Manager of Danapur Division of East Central Railway.
The thermal cameras are the new purchase items for Railways. Across India, zonal railways are purchasing them to put up at stations, workshops and offices. Railways’ telecom arm has floated a tender to procure 800 such cameras to be used in all kinds of places in Railways. Depending on the type chosen, a thermal camera may cost upwards of Rs 2-4 lakh a piece. With the pilot project, if successful in the long run, the transporter can save on spending this money in buying this crucial item in its premises.
“People can choose to take the linen items home after journey or can dispose them, but we have written on the items that they should be disposed of in a proper manner,” he said.
The items on sale include inflatable pillow, comforter, bedsheets, masks, hand sanitizers and the like. Each item is priced as low as Rs 50 while for around Rs 200-250, one gets a complete set. Officials said on the first day the entire stock got exhausted within an hour prompting the vendor to prepare for more stock for Tuesday onward.
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