Facial recognition system pilot on target in 96% of cases: Railway Police Force chief

Sanjay Chander says a pilot project implemented in Bengaluru using 30-odd high quality CCTV cameras and software tech has been successful in terms of tracking ‘wanted’ people and issuing alerts to RPF

February 20, 2023 01:24 am | Updated 02:10 am IST - New Delhi

Sanjay Chander, Director-General of Railway Police Force

Sanjay Chander, Director-General of Railway Police Force

With a view to enhancing security at railway stations, the Indian Railways is looking at installing facial recognition systems in 200 stations, Director-General (DG) of the Railway Police Force (RPF) Sanjay Chander told The Hindu in an interview.

A pilot project implemented in Bengaluru using 30-odd high quality CCTV cameras and software tech has been successful in terms of tracking ‘wanted’ people and issuing alerts to the RPF. “We have found that the facial recognition systems are very robust, even if a person is veiled or wearing a mask. If we have a matching photo in our wanted list, the system will capture any visible feature like the cheekbones or eyes and issue alerts,” Mr. Chander explained.

To test the tech, the RPF used masked decoys and received matches in 96% of the cases. “There are already CCTVs in 861 stations. Also 5,668 coaches have CCTV cameras installed inside. We now need to upgrade tech at these locations to extract quality feed,” he said.

While the RPF had the mandate of running the pilot experiment in Bengaluru, it does not currently have a separate capital expenses budget head to fund the proposal. “Hence the proposal has been moved from the Railways to the Ministry of Women and Child Development to approve budget from the Nirbhaya Fund for the purpose,” said Mr. Chander.

There is an urgent need for the Railways to beef up technology for securing its humongous porous infrastructure because the RPF is reeling under a deficiency of human resources. “Of 74,719 sanctioned posts, up to 65,862 are filled, rest of the 8,857 posts are lying vacant. We have nearly 1,700 to 1,800 personnel retiring annually and recruitment cycles are not regular,” he said.

Child trafficking

On top of the RPF’s agenda is dealing with a dual issue of tackling child and drug trafficking.

Of the 559 trafficked persons rescued in 2022, a majority of them were underaged boys (430) followed by 85 girls, 18 adult males and 26 females. “Up to 193 traffickers were arrested. We want to deploy all resources to get to the root of the problem. We know that source States are Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, a part of north-east and the area surrounding Nepal border. Lots of boys get sucked into child labour,” he said.

Up to ₹80 crore worth narcotic drugs were seized in 2022 on the rail route. Mr. Chander says that the Railways is a very lucrative route for drug traffickers and whatever is being seized is just still a tip of the iceberg. While investigating cases, the RPF realised that in some instances, contractual staff of the Railways were involved. “While conducting surprise checks, we found that contraband was hidden in various pockets of coaches or bathrooms. This can’t occur without help from staff,” he explained.

Mr. Chander emphasised that tech is important as an aid to tackle these crimes if perpetrators with shady movements are caught in action. “There is a considerable backlog in finishing background checks of contractual staffers due to lack of manpower in the RPF,” he pointed out.

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