Central Railways to install facial recognition attendance systems at its premises

The Indian Railways’ central division is looking to install facial recognition-based biometric attendance systems at some of its premises. The systems will be installed at some locomotive facilities of the Central Railway in Parel. Aside from ascertaining people’s identity via facial recognition, the tool will also have to generate multi-user attendance reports. This is in line with an increasing trend among Indian government bodies: from organisations that track crime statistics such as the NCRB to an education board like the CBSE, every institution is deploying facial recognition systems — all while India lacks a data protection law.

The Central Railways has floated a tender for the tool with an advertised value of ₹7,18,030, and it is looking to procure 25 such systems.

Parivesh Sahu, deputy chief mechanical engineer at Central Railways, and the official who issued the tender, said that the facial recognition systems will be installed at the Central Railway loco workshop in Parel. The tender has been set in such a way that it allows smaller Indian companies to also participate, Sahu said — since the value of the tender is less than ₹50 lakh, there are no minimum technical and financial eligibility criteria to participate in the bid.

The Indian Railways is becoming a steady adopter of surveillance tools such as facial recognition tools and drones. It is currently in the process of installing Video Surveillance Systems (VSS), equipped with a facial recognition system, in 983 railway stations across the country. Biometric-based token machines were active at seven railway stations, including Lucknow Junction, Ahmedabad, Mumbai Central and Bandra Terminus, as of February 2020. It recently procured nine surveillance drones at an expenditure of over ₹31 lakh, with the claim to strengthen security.