Commuters seek CCTV cams in trains after thefts

CHENNAI (MAS): A few cases of chain snatching and mobile phone thefts on suburban trains have forced commuters to demand for CCTV cameras inside trains. The Parliamentary standing committee on railways too had forwarded the suggestion to the ministry more than a year ago. But, railways are yet to take a decision to implement it.

Though there are issues of intrusion of privacy, there has been an increasing need to have CCTV monitoring in public spaces, including interiors of trains and buses to prevent crime. The airconditioned MTC buses have two security cameras and the to-be introduced metro rail trains will have cameras with feeds displayed in the drivers’ cabin.

“We have raised the issue for need of CCTV cameras and an emergency button inside suburban trains on Chennai-Tiruvallur and Gummidipoondi route when the standing committee on railways held a meeting to gather feedback on security of women commuters recently. The MPs have taken note of the request. The cameras inside the trains are important because several stations on the two routes do not have round-the-clock surveillance like in Central or Egmore,” said S Mohanram, member, Divisional Rail Users’ Consultative Committee.

T R Baalu, MP, chairman of the Parliamentary standing committee on railways said, “We have forwarded the request for CCTV cameras inside suburban trains to the Parliament in our earlier study.”

Cameras installed inside trains help in detecting crime, said an officer of Railway Protection Force. Recenly, police were able to launch a hunt and arrest for a gang of youth that harassed a girl inside a metro train in Bangalore based on security camera footage in a coach.

Central Railway mooted an idea to introduce security cameras inside suburban trains in Mumbai. A senior railway official said, “There is also a demand to include CCTV inside trains when new batch of rakes are made for Mumbai. But a decision has not been taken.”

Though several commuter-friendly accessories have been introduced in new stainless steel rakes that were made by Integral Coach Factory (ICF) for Mumbai suburban network, CCTVs have not been included as it would need a chain of approvals.

“Our coach factories manufacture efficient machines but are yet to catch up with companies abroad when it comes to features designed to improve riding comfort and commuter safety. Systems such as CCTVs, emergency alert button, facility to speak to the motorman or guard are yet to be introduced in suburban trains,” said an official of a coach-making factory.

A proliferation of security cameras and other monitoring devices has left people with little privacy. A surge in crime and a change in the profile of criminals, increasingly desperate and cold-blooded, and their methods have left law enforcement agencies with a few choices. But if the public is to be monitored, everywhere and at all times, the authorities should introduce checks that do not permit misuse of the system. Tackling crime should be a priority, but not in an Orwellian, all-controlling ‘Big Brother’ manner.