“Surveillance is paramount. We are living in times where the security scenario across the world is such that we cannot do without it [surveillance]. And visual electronic surveillance or surveillance through closed-circuit television cameras has been found to be the most effective, be it combating crime or managing traffic,” says former IPS officer and writer Maxwell Pereira.

And though CCTV cameras have today reached our bed rooms, it was only in late 1980s that the Delhi Police first installed five cameras over major buildings in the Capital to monitor traffic in and around Connaught Place. “Those five cameras were our showpiece to the world. Three cameras were installed each at the New Delhi Municipal Council building, the Life Insurance Corporation building and The Statesman building. Later, we installed a camera to capture traffic violations on Gyarah Murti Marg and seven dummies. In the late 1990s, we encouraged market associations of Karol Bagh, Lajpat Nagar, Greater Kailash and other major markets to install CCTV cameras at marketplaces and maintain them at their own expenses as the government would not give money,” recalls Mr. Pereira, adding that London had 20,000 CCTV cameras then and their traffic police had amassed a whopping 92 million dollars in a year through traffic violation prosecutions alone with the help of these cameras.

With the passage of time the need for CCTV cameras dawned upon the Indian authorities as well, especially in the wake of a series of terror attacks in the Capital over the past two decades, and several major markets, locations and border check posts are now under visual surveillance and more are to be covered soon, but former Delhi Police Commissioner B. K. Gupta punched holes in the Government’s efforts and claims on visual surveillance in the Capital at a seminar recently saying that Delhi did not have proper and effective CCTV facility to check terrorism and other crimes even after the Commonwealth Games and progress in this direction was being made on a piece-meal basis.

“I totally agree with it. What we have in the name of visual surveillance is inadequate and ineffective. Our approach to the whole concept is amateurish and primitive. There has to be a continuity of surveillance; an umbrella cover. It has to be a total culture. We have installed cameras, but do not know what to look at and how to look at. Our monitoring is not as intense and perfect as it should be. What I experienced in cities like London is that they have a very systematic method of recording each and every violation. We are good at introduction, but there is no disciple of follow-up. The maintenance of cameras is poor and no one here knows how to preserve the recorded tapes,” says Mr. Pereira...