A plan to ensure better surveillance of 14 vital installations under the information and cultural affairs (I&CA) department by installing 600 CCTV cameras has set off rumblings in Nabanna after it emerged that most of these sites already have such systems in place.
“The question is why the government has taken up initiatives to install so many cameras afresh, particularly when the majority of the structures have the system in place?” asked an official in the department.
Sources in Nabanna said the department had prepared a list of the installations. They include the Nandan-Rabindra Sadan complex, Uttirna (an open-air auditorium) in Alipore, State Archaeological Museum in Behala, Technician Studio and Madhusudan Mancha.
“Preliminary estimates suggest the department might have to spend Rs 4 crore to complete the project. It is still not clear why the department is keen to install the system in buildings where it is already in place,” said an official.
Sources said the Nandan-Rabindra Sadan complex had more than 70 cameras and was maintained by Calcutta police as VVIP movement in the area was high.
Uttirno has 38 cameras, functioning since 2017. The state archaeological museum has 30-odd cameras in place since 2015, sources said.
Repeated attempts to contact Vivek Kumar, secretary of the I&CA department, drew a blank.
“No final decision has been taken on the matter so far. The technical and financial specifications are being worked out,” a senior official said.
Sources in the department, however, said there was a hurry to start the project even though no final decision had been taken. “The department has roped in Webel, the government’s nodal IT agency, for the project. Ground work has started to install 242 cameras in the Nandan-Rabindra Sadan Complex even before the project secured final approval,” said a source.
Sources said the department had bypassed the standard practice of involving police before installing CCTVs. “The police prepare a plan and send it back to the department concerned once a decision on installing CCTVs in a building is approved. Based on the plan prepared by the police, final technical and financial estimates are made. But in this case, no such process was followed,” said the official.
An expert said a visit to the state archaeological museum and Technician Studio indicated the existing surveillance system was adequate. “The names of these two installations are yet to be struck off the list of 14 installations where cameras are supposed to be installed. This means there is something wrong,” said a source.
A senior official said the department “was trying to ensure no new camera was installed if existing ones were functioning normally and are found to be adequate in operational standards”.
Source: The Telegraph