Ministry of Railways: Internet Protocol (IP) based Video Surveillance System (VSS)

Background

The Ministry of Railways has issued a tender on January 8, 2020 to acquire facial recognition technology to be installed at railway stations across the country. The estimated budget of the project is 250 Crore INR which was allotted to the Ministry under the Nirbhaya Fund in an effort to increase the security and ensure safety to the citizens of the country who travel through the railways.

In phase-I that is targeted for this year, South Western Railway (SWR) has recently commissioned Video Surveillance system (CCTV) at 6 major stations - Ballari by providing 33 Cameras, Belagavi with 36 Cameras, Vasco-Da Gama with 36 Cameras, Bengaluru Cantt with 21 Cameras, Bangarpet with 36 Cameras, Hassan with 36 Camera and at 3 Stations at Hassan, Shivamogga Town & Sathya Sai Prasanthi Nilayam, work is under progress and will be commissioned shortly. Integrated security systems comprising CCTV have already been installed at 11 stations including Bengaluru with 71 Cameras, Yesvantpur with 35 Cameras, and Mysuru with 34 Cameras.

(Source: https://www.livemint.com/news/india/railway-stations-to-have-smart-cameras-for-facial-recognition-11578513121172.html )

Who will be affected?

The project is being developed at a national level and will be installed at 983 railway stations across the country.

Scope of the project

Four types of Full HD Cameras –

  1. Dome type (for indoor areas),

  2. Bullet type (for platforms),

  3. Pan Tilt Zoom type (for parking areas) and

  4. Ultra HD- 4k cameras (for crucial locations) are being provided.

CCTV camera live feeds are displayed on multiple screens at the Railway Protection Force (RPF) control room for monitoring. Each HD camera at the station consumes approximately 1TB of data and 4k camera consumes 4 TB data per month. The recording of the video feeds from CCTV cameras will be stored for 30 days for playback, post event analysis and for investigation purposes. Important videos can be stored for a longer duration.

RTI Findings

On February 14, 2020, we filed Right to Information requests with RailTel Corporation of India Ltd. to learn more about the specifics of the project, the legal basis for the project, details on expenditure by the state, and safeguards to protect people’s constitutional rights if any.

Questions asked

Our RTI request sought details on the following facets:

  1. The legislation under which the Ministry is developing facial recognition technology;

  2. Whether any legal opinion was sought by the Indian Railway prior to procurement of facial recognition technology.

  3. Whether there was a standard operating procedure for the pilot project.

  4. The total expenditure by the Ministry on the pilot project.

  5. Whether any cost-benefit analysis, feasibility study or privacy impact assessment was conducted prior to deployment of facial recognition technology.

  6. Copy of the tender documents.

  7. Exhaustive list of persons and/or organizations authorised to operate and use facial recognition technology.

  8. Details of the software and hardware being used for facial recognition.

  9. Details of the database(s) in which images are stored for the purpose of facial recognition.

Replies received

On March 13, 2020 we received a reply from RailTel Corporation of India Ltd. in which they refused to substantially answer any of our questions. However, they did provide us with the copy of the tender issued.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Hlh20ukJM1XWODSNf7TxYDDUdFEhS_jS/view?usp=sharing

Published By
Anushka Jain

Anushka Jain

Associate Counsel (Surveillance & Transparency), IFF

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