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Indo-Pak rail travellers to be captured on video

Indo-Pak rail travellers to be captured on video
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First Published: Sun, Aug 03 2008. 11 01 PM IST

Keeping tabs: A file photo of the Samjhauta Express at Attari in Punjab. The Intelligence Bureau plans to build a network of closed-circuit televisions which will be paired with people verification so
Keeping tabs: A file photo of the Samjhauta Express at Attari in Punjab. The Intelligence Bureau plans to build a network of closed-circuit televisions which will be paired with people verification so
Updated: Sun, Aug 03 2008. 11 01 PM IST
New Delhi: Those travelling by train between Pakistan and India will soon be videotaped and screened by the Intelligence Bureau in an attempt to try and control potential terrorist attacks.
Authorities often claim that terror incidents in India have connections to Pakistan, specifically the Inter-Services Intelligence, something which officials there stoutly deny.
Keeping tabs: A file photo of the Samjhauta Express at Attari in Punjab. The Intelligence Bureau plans to build a network of closed-circuit televisions which will be paired with people verification software to allow officials to match the portraits of terror suspects.
IB, which believes that maintaining visual records of those who cross the border could help in the long run, plans to set up an integrated surveillance system in railway stations in Attari, Punjab, and Munabao, Rajasthan, near the frontier.
This network of closed-circuit televisions will be paired with people verification and recognition software to allow officials to match the portraits of terror suspects with video grabs collected from the railway stations.
Three months ago, IB issued a tender for the surveillance project;?the bids are likely to be opened this month. According to the tender document seen by Mint, IB plans to record the arrival and departure of passengers. The tender specifies that the surveillance system should comprise “software for verification and recognition, through high quality images, of persons and objects.”
“These two points are very crucial for intelligence agencies and a database of people travelling by train between the two countries will definitely help track people whenever it becomes necessary,” said a home ministry official who didn’t want to be named. IB is under the home ministry.
Ministry of Science and Technology has been working on a terrorist profiling system since 2006. Though details of the so-called security technology initiative are sketchy, its stated aim is to spot potential terrorists. “Using biometrics and effective network of cameras installed at public places, we will be able to screen suspicious people,” claimed a senior official in the ministry. “So, we are also looking at technologies that can immediately allow authorities to send pictures of suspects on mobile phones, on a real-time basis.”
The Munabao railway line was reopened in 2006, some 40 years after it was closed; the Attari line was reopened the same year after being shut for two years. The Thar Express and the Samjhauta Express are the weekly trains between India and Pakistan, via Munabao and Attari, respectively.
In February 2007, 68 people were killed when two bombs went off on the Samjhautha Express travelling from India to Pakistan. Last week, serial blasts in Bangalore and Ahmedabad on consecutive days left more than 50 people dead. In May, bomb explosions left 63 people dead in Jaipur, the Rajasthan capital.
After the Jaipur blasts, science minister Kapil Sibal said in May that the government had spent Rs24 crore to procure technology from a US company that would be used for terrorist profiling. While refusing to disclose details of the technology, Sibal said a pilot project was under way at the New Delhi railway station to test the technology. Central Electronics Ltd, a public sector enterprise, is customing the technology to Indian conditions.
The connecting railway stations in India and Pakistan only have manned immigration desks without any other technology-based checks. A Railway Board official refused to comment on the planned surveillance project saying that security at border stations is primarily a matter for the home ministry.
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First Published: Sun, Aug 03 2008. 11 01 PM IST