Friday, February 6, 2009

Cantt Station on candid camera

By Asadullah

The Pakistan Railways has introduced a much-needed security feature to the Karachi Cantonment Railway Station, and the close circuit television (CCTV) network has been made functional with the proper installation of 26 cameras.

The Karachi Cantonment Railway Station, which also enjoys heritage status, has been equipped with a CCTV network after having a control room established within the police help centre at the station. The Railway Police have been tasked with monitoring the eight platforms of the station, hosting arrival and departure of 48 trains every 24 hours.

“The CCTV franchise operation has been under way since January 17 under railway police supervision,” a senior railway police officer told The News. “We are now monitoring the station with 26 cameras, including a high-speed dome camera installed in the parking lot of the station.”

Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, Railway Minister, had told the media that CCTV cameras would be installed at the Karachi, Rohri and Lahore railway stations in the first phase.

Pakistan Railway authorities, however, took time to come up with an authentic answer to the CCTV project when they finalised the bids for installing cameras. They managed to fit cameras at different points, but these remained idle due to the paucity of trained hands in the control room.

Sources said that twelve police constables and six female constables have undergone a six-month training period to work in the CCTV control room in eight-hour shifts round the clock. “We have enough memory for 25 days of video footage,” explained a police officer. “The 26th day will automatically erase the first day’s memory and record over it.”

Sources said that the installation of CCTV cameras in Karachi, Lahore and Rohri at an accumulative cost of Rs10.5 million is part of a greater security and surveillance project, which will also cover railway workshops, to have a check on theft and employees’ presence. Walk-through security gates have already been installed at the Karachi Cantonment Railway Station.

Sources informed The News that the Pakistan Railway headquarters in Lahore have finalised the CCTV Network at three railway stations, including Karachi Cantonment, in the first phase of the security measures to be taken at railway stations and trains across the country. Lahore-based Champions Traders has installed the cameras at Karachi, too.

“The high-speed dome camera installed at the parking lot of Karachi Cantonment Railway Station is unique amongst the cameras installed to cover eight platforms,” observed a police officer. “This particular camera can be rotated as per your requirement, enabling you to keep a watchful eye on the huge open space around the parking area.”

According to Baqar Gilani, the Station House Officer of the Karachi Cantonment Railway Police Station, the establishment of CCTV control room under the railway police’s supervision is indeed a right step toward improved policing at the century-old railway station where 90 percent of the up-country railroading originates.

Within the Cantonment Railway Police Station’s limits, the theft of railway material and property tops the incidents of crime, followed by pick pocketing and luggage-lifting.

“Another most serious crime that we deal with is poisoning of people in a bid to rob them,” said Gilani.

No official, including Muzzafar Ali Sheikh, Railway Police SP, could confirm the cost of the cameras and other necessary arrangements that have been made to finalise the CCTV network. Mir Mohammed Khaskheli, Divisional Superintendent Railway Karachi, appeared ignorant as far as the actual cost of the CCTV Network at Karachi alone was concerned. (The News)

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