Within weeks of world-wide cyber security portal Comparitech having included Hyderabad among the 20 most surveilled cities in the world, a query under the Right to Information Act revealed that many of these cameras were non-functional. The query filed by an RTI and social activist, SQ Masood, before the state Director General of Police, M Mahender Reddy, brought startling facts to light including the complete absence of a uniform policy on maintaining the video footage of these cameras in public places and accountability of the authorities in the matter.
The DGP had forwarded Masood’s query to all the police stations in Hyderabad and two surrounding commissionerates of Rachakonda and Cyberabad. However, only three of the police stations – Jeedimetla, Balanagar and Madhapur – replied to the query while others, especially in Hyderabad did not respond. The replies revealed that many of the cameras in their jurisdictions were not working defeating the very purpose of their installation.
A report by UK based agency Comparitech, in July last, had put Hyderabad at 16th spot among the 20 cities in the world in terms of the coverage of CCTV cameras. Interestingly, Hyderabad was the only Indian city among the top 20 and, except London, all other 18 cities were in China. Comparitech had said that Hyderabad along with its two neighbouring urban conglomerates of Cyberabad and Rachakonda had nearly half a million CCTV cameras for a population of 10 million or 29.9 cameras per thousand population. “I had filed the query under RTI as part of my research”, said SQ Masood pointing out many loopholes in the maintenance of the records.
The replies to the query said that of the 485 CCTV cameras in public places under the police station of industrial suburb Balanagar, 255 were not functioning. Under another industrial area Jeedimetla 242 of 708 cameras were not working. In the most tech savvy part of the city – Madhapur, the IT hub, of the total 310 cameras, 26 were non functional. Police attributed the situation to numerous reasons including cables getting snapped off, cameras getting damaged due to heavy rains, and technical glitches. In Madhapur police station limits, where MNCs and global companies have their offices and campuses, a constable was specially deputed only to look after the cameras and ensure their proper functioning.
In addition to these cameras installed by the police, Jeedimetla police limits also have 4,042 community cameras installed by various residential and commercial organizations and groups at their own expense.